Friday, May 9, 2014

How long will it take the skeptical community to realize paranormal phenomena isn't just going to go away?

I was listening to the Paranormal Podcast today, and the episode featured Robert McLuhan, author of the blog Paranormalia.  The topic was whether or not skeptics are looking at paranormal claims fairly, or have they already reached their own conclusions without looking at the research.

I think it's probably safe to say your hardcore, cynical skeptics like Michael Shermer, Benjamin Radford, and Joe Nickel already have a conclusion in mind before they even begin their investigation of a paranormal claim.  I imagine they, and other skeptics like them, begin any research or investigation with the idea that whatever they are investigating is a fraud, delusion, or a mistaken identity.  They just have to figure out a way to explain it as such.

In some cases, the research and explanation of skeptics may be informative and accurate.  Other times though, their explanations can be laughable (see this example) and sometimes they seem to just be grasping at straws to find an explanation (see this example).  It's like they are so determined to explain something mysterious as being something completely normal, they don't even realize how silly their "rational" explanation can sound sometimes.

So my question now is, when will this community of cynical skeptics finally realize that there is still paranormal phenomena out there?  They assume it is all a matter of erroneous belief, so they think if they keep explaining paranormal phenomena away with generic answers and petty narratives, eventually people will stop believing and won't experience paranormal phenomena anymore.  But that's just it -- it's not always just a belief and people won't stop reporting paranormal experiences because paranormal experiences will continue to happen.  There will continue to be people who are born with an innate sixth sense of some sort, so they will still continue to experience the world with that sixth sense.  And there will still be people who see ghosts or other phenomena of that nature.

I know there are fraudulent psychics out there and there are people who are just imagining ghosts.  But there's also genuine psychics as well as haunting cases that cannot be easily explained away.  You've even got documented examples of serious research like the US Government's project Stargate which utilized remote viewers.  So instead of trying to explain everything paranormal away with generic answers, why won't these skeptics take a step back and say, "Ok, there is something unusual going on with this case," and then refocus their efforts on trying to figure out what the phenomena really is?  Isn't that how science progresses?  Instead of trying to force something to fit into your skeptical worldview with a petty explanation, why not try to learn something new?  At one point in time, the skeptics and debunkers did a great service to the advancement of science and reason by pointing out how parlor tricks and con artist deceptions worked.  But that is in the past, and now, ironically, I feel they are the ones who are slowing down the advancement of science and reason by failing to realize that genuine unexplained phenomena still exists.

There are academic researchers who recognize that there is still unexplained phenomena.  People like Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake who investigate psychic phenomena from a serious academic setting.  But many of their peers will turn a blind eye or frown upon the research they do.  Why won't more of their peers and skeptics take their research seriously?  If more people would get involved, then perhaps they could develop a scientific explanation for psychic phenomena and it would no longer be considered paranormal but normal.

So how long will people continue to experience paranormal phenomena before more researchers begin to take it seriously?


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