Skepticism Vs. Reality in the Paranormal


When you get into the field of the paranormal, I think having a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing. You have to keep your wits around you and lets face it, we want to make sure that we are keeping true ourselves and our own true intentions and beliefs. I think being true to one's self is an important part of our individual characters. When I had my own experiences, whether it's been ghostly, alien or cryptid, I personally try my damndest to look for a logical solution to what I've seen or heard. But when two plus two doesn't equal four, then you have to wonder what the heck is going on? Being skeptical, like I said, is healthy, but there comes a point where skeptical people can be a little too closed minded. 

The definition of skepticism according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the following: 1 - an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object; 2 - the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain : the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics; 3 - doubt concerning basic religious principles (as immortality, providence, and revelation). In other words, to put the definition more bluntly, it's question everything until it's 100% proven. Well we know in the paranormal that's not going to happen. The paranormal is all theory. Because the fact is, we don't know what spirits are? We don't know what aliens are, or who they are? We don't know if cryptids like Bigfoot exist? We don't really know anything besides the personal experiences people are having. Sure there's evidence, whether it's video taped, recorded on audio or photographed. But how do we know we are actually getting evidence? In reality, we can only assume that's what it is. Now, that's a skeptical point of view. 

And this is where the tale of the experiencer comes into play. As you know, there are three sides to every story. There's your side, the other party's side, and then what truly happened. Our minds love to exaggerate without us knowing. And we also know that there is so much disinformation out there with CGI and photoshop that it's really ruined most of the credibility of the true stories? Why? Probably because people are always searching for their 15 minutes of fame. I am not so sure that it's always some Government disinformationalist trying to skew the public's perception on these topics. The reality is this. We know things are happening. We know people are having some amazing experiences out there. We know that not everyone who is experiencing near death experiences, out of body experiences, sightings of aliens or big foot, are crazy or psychologically imbalanced people. We know these experiences are affecting people on every social scale out there; from doctors and actors to construction workers and Walmart greeters. These are experiences that the public can't explain, which is why their stories are still so important. It's how we learn. There's a real human factor to all of this that has been lost in the technological research, that it's sad that we don't have people truly giving others the benefit of the doubt for their experience.

But really, how can they? The reason for this blog was because of a great friend of mine, Troy Ryan, from the Canadian Paranormal Society. Over a beer at my house, I showed him a picture of a ghost. His response, as innocent as it was, was the exact reason why I feel the paranormal, when it comes to research, is in trouble, and won't be taken seriously. As I showed Troy the picture of the ghost which houses itself in an old Clydesdale barn in my town, Troy's reaction to the photo was that he could see what could potentially be a ghost. But then he said something that really, my immediate thought was, "That's exactly what is wrong with the field of the paranormal!" He stated, "I see it looks like a ghost, but I wasn't there, so I can't be 100% sure if that's real or not?" Yes, this is true.  A skeptical mind, shall we say. But that statement also says a lot about the industry itself. Troy and I are good friends. We trust each other. But because many are so focused on "debunking" rather than a collection of evidence, that we've become more than just skeptical. We've become assholes. Just because you didn't experience it, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Unfortunately, that's the attitude many in this great field are starting to take. They trust no one. They trust no evidence. And just to state a fact, Troy is one of the most gracious and nicest human beings a person could meet. And Troy is someone who wears his emotions and questions on his sleeve, but admits his skepticism sometimes gets the better of him. So to delve into this further, what we, as investigators, are saying is we are trying really hard to disprove evidence, rather than prove something is there. Does that make sense?

Every day, on my Facebook profile, I write what I call "Today's Thought of the Dave." Catchy isn't it? This is what I wrote, "Talking with a couple of paranormal friends about the good and bad of ghost hunting after Spaced Out Radio last night. One of the two mentioned that he didn't know if I was actually showing him a pic of the ghost because he can't prove it because he wasn't there. I mentioned to him that that's EXACTLY what is wrong with the paranormal right now. We all agreed on that. So, if I capture evidence, and you're not there to see it, why would that be subjected to skepticism? So my question for today is, are we trying too hard to be too critical or to "debunk" evidence, when we weren't there to see the actual event?" Here are some of the responses I've received. 

This one from James, "I agree with you. We do try to hard to debunk everything. Now some are truly nothing more then as light bouncing off of a mirror, or a rain drop. But we need to stop trying to debunk every pic or video."

Brian took a different approach; "As a fellow investigator I have to say, I've been studying and researching the paranormal since the late seventies when it was referred to as supernatural long before TV programs perverted the science just for ratings and I have seen many fakes and I believe that every picture should undergo strict scrutiny we as "professionals " should never just take pictures videos and story's as absolute truths without subjecting them to a higher standard of science, the best way to "prove" is to try to disprove."

Corey, deservedly so, blames all the 'fakers' out there. "Unfortunately, there are to many who are okay with faking evidence, thus the large amounts of skepticism. I think evidence should be looked at logically, if you can rule out the mundane, then it's probably solid evidence. I don't think that people should be so rude as to discredit every piece of evidence from everyone, how ever we do have to look at things carefully due to the amount of faked evidence that's out there." Kat also agreed with this. "For me, so many have falsified evidence, that I can't help not believing them if I wasn't there. They are great pics but I've become very skeptical. And there is the question of pareidolia as well . It's very sad that it's come to this."

Gail may have summed it up best, in trying to have an open mind, "I believe everyone until they give me a reason not to. Lie to me once, and the precedent has been set. The pics and sounds are more evidence of the researcher's integrity than the ghost's reality. Tear up the pic, delete it, or erase it; the ghost will still be there. Fake, lie, or exaggerate and trust is gone, forever. If someone is compelled to disprove something, let them try! If it's true and valid, there's nothing to worry about, truth is it's own champion."

But the issue is, where is the truth when there are so many differing opinions from what is evidence to what's not, which coincides with the different ways to investigate. The one thing we can agree on is that we know things are happening. But it still comes down the fact that until there is some set precedence on how to investigate properly while holding the integrity of the research, then we, as a field of independent researchers, will continue to flounder in finding out the truth as to what's going on. Can we get on the same page? I'm not quite sure of that. Personally, I think it's too far along in the game to gain some sort of continuity in investigation. And with the plethora of differing opinions, finding a central path of research may be long lost. Sure, everyone is different, and will have their own styles and techniques. But the lack of continuity is where the arguments first start.

The reality is, the experiences people are having are real. Many wouldn't wish it upon their worst enemies. The skeptics are there to have an open mind, yet they are closing it because the story doesn't fit into their own belief system. And that's where today's problem in the paranormal lies. Then we wonder aloud and often, why the mainstream laughs at us.

Dave Scott can be heard on Spaced Out Radio ( Monday through Friday, starting at 9pm PDT, 12am EDT. Follow Dave on Twitter @spacedoutradio