Sunday, 29 November 2015

Pardon me for being gruff: Dismissing the Goat Man


What? You hadn't noticed? Well, neither had I actually, but that's what "lad's culture" site Unilad reported today (29/11/15). The article talks about the history of the cryptid and not much else. So where is this "Goatman frenzy" occurring?

Mostly on Twitter it seems, where searching the hashtag #goatman links to a hundred or so tweets from the last few days. None of these posts actually link to any actual eye witness accounts. Many of them link to blogs heavily featuring the photo above, easily the most famous image of the cryptid. But this image certainly isn't a new one, a brief search links it to a news story aired in May 2014 from Wave 3 a Louisville KY TV station. The report centres around legends of the "Pope-lick monster", tales of farmers dealing with Satan and escaped circus freaks ensue. But the image seems to predate this report. In fact it dates back to 2011.

The picture is clearly a fake, for a start it supposedly features the body of a murdered hiker, yet no criminal investigation was ever carried out nor are there any news reports of the same, hardly surprising as the picture was actually created for website i09 which held a competition entitled "Cryptid Summer" in 2011 which callenged visitors to create the most convincing cryptid photograph! Creator Lew describes how he created the image in the passage of the right, beneath the picture.

So if this isn't representative of the recent sightings of Goat-Man, where are these  accounts? A Google search links to what seems to be the source of the recent Goat-Man frenzy. On 27th November Janice Robinson reports for the website MoviePilot:
" American cryptid-spotters from all across the country - with hotspots in Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin - report sightings of a horned man with the cloven hooves of an ungulate... Cult of Weird describes a sighting from Louisville, KY where the Goatman is locally known as 'The Pope Lick Monster': 'A large humanoid creature with furry, goat-like legs, alabaster skin, wide-set eyes, and horns that protrude from greasy fur.'"
The report further links to a year old publicity blurb for a book by Wisconsin author J. Nathan Couch, "Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?" which  explores goatman legends and sightings, I can answer that question by the way: folklore.

At no point does the MoviePilot article quote anyone who has allegedly encountered "Goat-Man", nor does an UPROXX article from the following day.
"creature known colloquially as “The Pope Lick Monster” has recently (and allegedly) been spotted throughout Wisconsin, Texas, and Kentucky..... scattered sightings of the creature arrive not too long after the release of J. Nathan Couch’s book, Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? Couch, a Wisconsin-based ghost hunter, dug into the decades-deep history of the Goatman, who has frightened generations of teenagers who would otherwise hang freely in the woods for rampant makeout sessions. Well, maybe the Goatman did serve a purpose."

The UPROXX article does link to the Twitter fuss, and who is this right in the centre of the hashtag frenzy? Its J. Nathan Couch author of the aforementioned Goat Man book!

Now I don't really see this increased interest in Goat-man as a publicity stunt by Couch to promote the book, I just think that he's exploiting the sudden surge in attention to market a few copies. I don't blame him, the man has to make a living.

The UK's free daily newspaper The Metro reports from a similar angle as UPROXX and UNILAD, the Goat Man itself isn't the story, the "internet frenzy" is. Laughably the Metro submits this image into evidence:

The image is clearly a man dressed as a goat! In the photographer who took the image conclusively told Fox News this in 2012!

"He was clumsy, working his way down the cliff trying to catch up with the rest of the herd," said Creighton. "With the binoculars I could clearly see it was a guy dressed up in a homemade goat suit." Creighton says the suit was big and furry and the man also wore heavy gloves so he could crawl on his hands and knees."
Shame on Metro reporter Ollie McAteer for straight-face reporting of an image that FOX FUCKING NEWS saw through! Also, lazy journalism man, it took me 30 seconds on Google to debunk this. You should be ashamed. Sure its A goat man, but its not THE Goat Man!

I'm pretty sure the Daily Star and Mirror stories along the same vein will follow within hours.

Again what the Metro story lacks is any eye witness testimony.

Putting this aside for a moment, could the Goat Man be a creature that actually exists?

Certainly man/animal hybrids have been a staple of mythology in multiple cultures since time immemorial, but these myths were born before the development of natural selection and evolution, before the discovery of DNA and the genome. Many of the accounts of the Goat man tell of "science gone wrong" and the creation of a gene-spliced monster.

Brian Regal assistant professor of the history of science at Kean University gave a series of lectures in 2009 regarding the impact of Darwin's theory of natural selection on the werewolf myth and explains why these hybrids are impossible.
 “The spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view,”
Surely the same can be said regarding a goat/man hybrid. The species involved here are simply too far removed into evolutionary terms, to create a hybrid.

You can listen to Regal's interview with the Monster Talk team, entitled Darwin .Vs the Wolfman, here.

So with no ACTUAL spate of sightings and no clear financial gain, what is the interest in three extremely popular sites, entertainment sites mind you, and the Metro publishing these stories?

I think there's a Slender-Man-esqe feel to what's on offer here, the only major difference being Goat Man having something of a folklore antecedent, albeit a not particularly old one-(the earliest Goat Man reports date to 1952 and the early 1940s), where this antecedent was pure invention in the case of Slender-man. Is this perhaps an attempt here to create another modern-myth, a viral monster in the ilk of SM and the Black eyed children? That interest would certainly generate a whole ton of hits for sites quick enough to get the jump on a surge in interest.

We are in a unique position looking at this develop at this time, because it won't be long until the preponderance of these stories begins to generate actual sightings. The more attention Goat man gets, the further to the forefront of people's mind he becomes, the more likely hoaxers and those vulnerable to misattribution are to begin sighting the beast.

What we are seeing is a self fulfilling prophecy in reverse. A rash of sightings has not sparked an internet frenzy, but an internet frenzy may likely spark a rash of "sightings".

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Nadir of ghost "news" stories. *sigh*

Well they finally did it.

The Mirror has finally achieved its goal to publish the worst ghost story/photo possible, based on a story published originally in the Gazette Live the day before, both articles wrote by Mirror group churnalist Laura Love. The  date16th November 2015 must go down in history as the day the Mirror lost all rights to claim the prefix "news." Its now just paper. Except for when it is online, then it isn't even that.

Take a look at the image that captivated Love's keen journalistic instincts so:

See that white shapeless blob at the end of the corridor? The one that resembles a human figure in almost no respect? Yep ghost. Of a doctor no less. Why a doctor? Because the photo was taken in a hospital, and it looks vaguely like a white coat despite being almost exactly the same shade of white as the surrounding walls.

So does the article offer anything else in support of this alleged "ghost" photo taken at Poole Hospital?

Lots of subjective feelings and bad grammar, about the hospital, which closed in 1989, from visitors to the Gazette's facebook page:

“Remember going up here on a night loads of us it was a creepy place.”
“Was spooky, few experiences. After Poole was closed Cleveland Police used Grey Towers for dog training. No dog would go into the chapel would not go past the door the police handler could not believe it.”
“I done security up there on permanent nights when it closed down and believe me I did not look forward to my shifts.”
So abandoned Hospitals are a bit creepy. I'll concede that. So what? Should this persuade that ghosts roamed those halls? The Mirror thinks it should as does one commenter they quote earnestly, but I think may have been taking the piss:

“I’m convinced.”

I'm not.

The fact is this story doesn't even qualify as news. In addition to comprising mainly of people's opinions on a FB thread, now deleted for some reason, the pictures were taken in the 1990s, the hospital itself was demolished soon after.

All this results in a news story that is more worthless than that "baby pushed by ghost" trash from earlier this year. All involved should be ashamed. I'd normally link to any news story that I cover, but frankly, no one should be assisting in the Mirror's efforts to euthanise Journalism.

It seems that the Mirror's readership agrees, there isn't a single comment in the story's comment section as of 26/11/15.

Maybe Love should have a celebrity into the mix to increase interest.

Yahoo news reports on 24th November, that Khloe Kardashian believes her home is being haunted by the ghost of her late father Robert. This has seemingly been confirmed by "Hollywood medium" Tyler Henry, who visited Khloe's home and "got an image" of someone smelling a tie.

For Khloe this is conclusive enough:

“What if it’s dad? My dad had hundreds of ties and I always smell his stuff. Like, I have a jacket and his shirts and I haven’t ever washed them and I just always, like, smell them.”
 This isn't an uncommon thing, and its something that the Kardashian mentions in her recent autobiography. I would say that this is just evidence that it doesn't matter how rich and famous you are, you're just as vulnerable to rationalising what is said to you by a psychic, often as a result of a desire or need to believe that your loved ones are still around you, to make appear as if they have said something significant.

Tyler's prognostication seems even weaker in the context of this quote from his website:

 These "specific, detail-orientated specifics" seemed to be conspicuous by their absence in his visit to Khloe's home.

Tyler's site is filled with the usual blathering psychics offer, powers connected to dying grandparent, assisting the police, no actual evidence of this of course.... par for the course.

Before we sympathise with Khloe too much, its worth considering that this encounter with Henry was not impromptu, it was organised and filmed for the E! tv series "Keeping up with the Kardashians." Henry himself is the star of an upcoming show on E! "Hollywood Medium" starting in January. I've got to be honest, Henry may be on to a winner here, doing readings for celebrities should be like shooting fish in a barrel with the amount of information available on the internet.

The whole story is nothing more than an advertisement for an episode of the Kardashians, which is in turn a promotion for Tyler's show.

It seems like for certain people nothing is off limits for purposes of cross-promotion.

No. No thumbs up for you Tyler, you're a parasite.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Where is the love? How IFLS is failing Science.

Whoo-whoo! Science is cool now! Big Bang Theory! Brian Cox! Neil DeGrasse Tyson! I Fuckin' Love Science Facebook page!

As of 18, November 2015, the page had almost 23,000,000 likes. That's over twenty million people receiving daily science stories and updates. Surely as a lifelong geek/nerd/square (do people still say square?) I'm over the moon about this? I would if what was on offer was "science". Unfortunately much of what IFLS offers isn't science, its pseudo-science, surveys conducted without adequate controls and blatant sensationalism.

Let's take a look at the some of the stories from 18/11/15, one day in the history of the page, to see how what was shared represents science.

Surveys and sensationalism

Follow the links and what you will find is a report about a study conducted by the Journal of Family and Marriage, what IFLS don't point out is that in no way could this research constitute anything conclusive and certainly its not a metric to judge the potential success of a relationship. See if you can spot why in this description of the study from IFLS site.
"For the study, 376 dating couples in their mid-20's were queried each month for nine months "
It should be immediately obvious that this is an extremely small sample size, not only this but there is little variation within that sample. All the couples are in their mid twenties, any data extracted from them can't be extrapolated to couples outside this extremely limited age bracket.  It simply isn't representative of the population as a whole! To be honest I could stop here: this is a killer for ANY research of this nature. Also the survey is extremely short-term. Reading on further flaws present themselves:

"Their comments – such as “we were fighting a lot” and “we have more in common than I thought” – and types of bonding (passionate versus friendship-based love, for example) were converted into numerical values and graphed."

 Whoa! These are QUALITATIVE statements, the assignment of a numerical value to them is completely arbitrary. It isn't even ranked data such as "how happy are you in your relationship" scaled between 1-5 perhaps. Therefore any visual representation of this data isn't meaningful!

This isn't science. It is pretty pictures.

Again this is a link that essentially hinges on a survey. The article actually cites the Daily Mail  as a source, which for anyone with a passing interest in science in the media, should ring immediate alarm bells. To say the mail's science reporting is lack-lustre would be an understatement.

The research does come from a considerably larger sample size at 2000, over a larger age range. But it was conducted by an agency that specializes in finding drivers parking spaces, its a commercial survey based on a browser game. Its a  marketing tool by a new company to get people to their site.

 Plus apparently I have the reaction speed of an 85-year-old, possibly because I was watching the TV as I took part in the test. I wasn't asked to input any other data such as my actual age or how much wine I'd imbibed. Were any of the 2000 "subjects?" Who knows because there isn't an actual research paper one can read to assess the methodology used.

This isn't science!

This article links to a press release rather than the actual paper which is a bit annoying. Reading the actual article brings to mind some of my complaints about the previous two "study based" pieces we've had... the final two paragraphs solidifies my suspicion:
"The experiment, unpublished but under review, does have its obvious limitations..."
So this isn't even published! I wonder why? Couldn't be because isn't not methodologically sound perhaps? One of the lead researchers concedes exactly that...
"That said, the findings aren’t necessarily generalizable, Hugh-Jones admits to IFLScience, because the participants were members of online marketing panels, rather than a random sample."
I'd go further. The findings are pretty much meaningless. These online panels gather data from individuals who are often incentivised to take part. in-game currency, for example, being one of the most common rewards. Do you really think that Candy Crush addicts are taking this online research seriously? No, they rush to completion in order to collect their coins.

Therefore, the headline of the article is pure sensationalism.

The worst thing about the reporting of these studies is that they are presented as legitimate research and as such they give a very misleading impression of what scientists do and how data is gathered and presented.

In terms of science reporting, they put IFLS on par with the British tabloids, and that is not a flattering comparison. In fact its a damn scary one when you consider that IFLS may well be the most viewed science news source in the world.

If you want to read more about these kinds of surveys and market research I highly recommend Michael Marsh's BadPr site.

If you had any doubt what IFLS prime motivation is, take a glance at the next two stories from 18/11/15

Clickbait ahoy!

The link leads to pretty much nothing. Neil DeGrasse Tyson speculates on the question posed above. The overwhelming question for us is "who fuckin' cares?" This is click bait fluff and nothing more, it is not science. There's no research behind this. Let's face it sex sells. It also generates a lot of website views. So does Tyson, who is the darling of IFLS memes and posts.

You know what else sells... violence.... and Ronda Rousey.

There's no doubt that Rousey's defeat to Holly Holm was big news and guaranteed hits for any website that featured a story regarding it, and the linked article from Wired is OK. Rhett Allain does a decent job of estimating the force in the kick. His calculations are, as the author concedes, based on fairly massive assumptions, actually wild guesses, though.

My problem with IFLS piece about the article is that it adds nothing to the original and gives the distinct impression that the IFLS author may not of actually understood it and may be taking credit for something that Allain himself did:
"Allain has managed to calculate some pretty interesting stats. For example, he estimated that her average foot speed was 6.3 meters per second (14 miles per hour). From the rest of his work, we were able to add that the recoil of her foot was around 1.6 meters per second (3.6 miles per hour)."
 Wait "we were able to add that the recoil of her foot was around 1.6 meters per second (3.6 miles per hour)" Is that, we as in IFLS? Its hardly difficult! Speed is just the magnitude of velocity, its very simple to work out:

Taking Allain's values for the velocity vectors (-1.26,-1.04,0) m/s

The speed |v| is simple to find:
That's it. IFLS science can't take credit for that, most high school students could perform the same calculation with ease. They'd probably also notice that IFLS don't even give their answer to the appropriate number of significant figures.

There's no escaping reality here. This is an article about an article. And the main article isn't cutting edge, it is certainly not research, its an interesting application of some physics principles, sure. But it's not news.

Of course these weren't the only stories published by IFLS that day, they were probably the worst too. Some of the others were definitely of more merit, but why the filler? The authors of IFLS must know that the above articles are crap, or nonsense or wholly derivative of other articles. 

This isn't an off day for IFLS either, unfortunately. Similar sloppiness infects their history.

Plagiarism accusations

In 2013 Alex Wild, a Scientific American blogger and entomologist took umbrage when IFLS used one of his photos both without credit and permission. Wild had this to say in response, about IFLS and its creator Elise Andrew:
"The people who actually made the content that drives Andrew’s ascendant business- the professional scientific illustrators, the photographers, the cartoonists, the graphic designers- aren’t given anything in return. They aren’t paid. They aren’t acknowledged. They aren’t even asked."
In an article for Scientific, American Wild examined IFLS content and found that 59 of the page's last 100 posts were uncredited and that only 26 of the credited posts correctly cited the author. Further, to that, a Facebook staffer told another creator who raised a similar complaint, that as of 2013 there were over 6000 copyright complaints pending against IFLS.

Andrew herself denies this allegation.

This leads me back to a point I made earlier. Why did IFLS publish an article about a Wired article? Why didn't they just link to the Wired piece. One can only conclude that it is in order to garner hits for their own site. They used some else's work to gain visits to their site.

One could also make the point about the Mail article from earlier, but that would require me actually suggesting that someone link to the Mail for a purpose other than mockery and derision.

You're Getting warmer.... Warmer... Colder.... 

On July 13th this year IFLS published an article with the following title: Thanks To Reduced Solar Activity, We Could Be Heading For A Mini Ice Age In 2030, which was met with a slew of criticism. The main failing of the piece stemmed from the fact that author, Caroline Read, fundamentally misunderstood the study she was reporting on and failed to do further fact checking.
"...A recent announcement from solar scientists suggests that the Sun may soon enter a period of significant reduced activity, possibly causing a mini ice age by 2030 – just 15 years from now. These predictions were announced at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, so it hasn't been possible to evaluate the research yet. However, Professor Valentina Zharkova from the University of Northumbria who made this announcement claims that the findings come from a computer model of sunspots that has made "unprecedentedly accurate predictions," as reported in The Telegraph."
 The actual report centered on a drop in solar magnetic activity, this reduced magnetic activity having a barely negligible effect on the energy output, and thus Earth's temperature. The majority of climate scientists and solar scientists rejected this claim of causality out right.

Despite heavy criticism IFLS dug itself a deeper hole the following day with a piece, again by Read, entitled There Probably Won't Be A “Mini Ice Age” In 15 Years in which Zharkova states
“We didn't mention anything about the weather change, but I would have to agree that possibly you can expect it... It will be cold, but it will not be this ice age when everything is freezing like in the Hollywood films,” 
Nowhere in this second article does Read attempt to say "we were wrong, sorry about that" nor does she link to any of the legitimate criticism of the first article. A bit chilly does not equate to an ice-age, the first article was clearly sensationalism unchecked.

Astronomer  Phil Plait offered one of the most solid rebuttals of the claims made by IFLS and Zharkova in his Slate column also from the 14th July. Hitting on most of the points made by Zharkova in the second piece and dismissing them he concludes:
"Some climate change deniers have been claiming for a while that the lower number of sunspots can lead to a repeat of the brutal cold snap that gripped Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, but that’s silly. There were several factors that came into play there (including huge volcanic eruptions that magnified cooling; volcanic gases reflect sunlight and cool the Earth a wee bit), and even then the effects were localized to Europe. And even then, summers were normal; it was just that winters were extra cold.And again, all of this is a drop in the bucket. Any cooling effects by the Sun would be on top of a much larger heating trend due to global warming."
 A further article on the subject on IFLS takes the absolute piss frankly. Jim Wild writes on 15th July:
"Wouldn’t it be great if scientists could make their minds up? One minute they’re telling us our planet is warming up due to human activity and we run the risk of potentially devastating environmental change. Next, they’re warning that the Earth is heading for a mini ice age in the next 15 years."
Except Jim "scientists" didn't warn that "Earth is heading for a mini ice age" IFLS did! The scientist in question corrected them, albeit half-heartedly. But wait a darn second... this article wasn't written for IFLS! It was actually wrote for the Conversation! Again IFLS have duplicated an article rather than just linking to the source. And in perhaps the most bare-faced way imaginable, shrugging their shoulders and walking away from a mess they generated!

Its clear that IFLS has lost its way. One would be hard pressed to deny that the page at least started as an admirable attempt to take real science to the masses. somewhere along the way the page seems to have lost its focus however. Articles are pushed through with little to no fact checking, and with an emphasis on hits rather than legitimate science correspondence. And yes we've avoided it thus far... money. IFLS is a business now with advertisers to consider and tee-shirts to sell. This has muddied the waters of what the page set out to do.

The contributors to IFLS and its creator must quickly remember that being one of the largest providers of science communication comes with a massive responsibility, one they are not fore-filling with click-bait, poor research, and sensationalism.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

"Psychologizing is both counterproductive and unfair." So are sweeping generalisations.

A Response to Michael Prescott's blog post of 16th November

There is very little in the sphere of the paranormal that irritates me more than those that create the illusion of some kind of "Skeptic .Vs Believer" divide. As I've often pointed out, most skeptics are not in the business of dismissing the paranormal out of hand, I would typify someone who does this as a cynic rather than a skeptic. Believers, an unhelpful label perhaps, should see a skeptical approach as a useful tool in examining paranormal claims, and many do. I know quite a few "skeptical believers" read this blog, enough to know that the term is NOT an oxymoron. Its a fitting title for a person who examines paranormal claims by first considering rational explanations often using the scientific method, but ultimately concludes, that even if the data they are currently examining is not evidence, the same does exist somewhere.

These believers often consider skeptics allies, in that, eliminating false data, hoaxes and misattribution clears the path for data that can't be rationalised. Debunking is not just useful but crucial if real evidence is to be found.

That's why blog posts like this from author Michael Prescott make me spitting angry. He is going to tell you what skeptics think, and you better listen. Here' s Michael's introduction:
"Normally I'm reluctant to engage in psychologizing. It's impolite to presume knowledge of other people's subconscious minds and to infer motivations that are supposedly hidden even from the persons under consideration. Besides, psychologizing is a double-edged sword; the people we're analyzing can always come back with none-too-flattering assertions about our own subconscious motivations. As a debating tactic, a way of scoring points, psychologizing is both counterproductive and unfair."
I agree. He then proceeds to ignore his own protestations and do it anyway.

"I've observed Skeptics in many forums over many years. (Note the capital S, denoting militant debunkers, a nomenclature proposed by Roger Knights. I'm not talking about casual scoffers or people who are genuinely undecided.) My impression is that Skeptics, in general, are characterized by an extreme aversion to cognitive dissonance."

 Firstly Michael is not a psychologist. From the information I can find about him he majored in Film Studies at  Wesleyan University. How does this qualify him to discuss psychology, even informally? Cognitive dissonance is an extremely complex mechanism, Michael's helpful Wikipedia definition barely does this justice. Nor does it inspire confidence that he has an especially good understanding of it.

So Michael has decided that he going to psycho-analyse skeptics and their justification in rejecting the "evidence" from psi-phenomena. See the problem here immediately? "Skeptics" are an extremely wide ranging group of people, with wide ranging beliefs and positions on all sorts of subjects, including Psi.  I know many self declared skeptics who see validity in Psi-research. For a professional psychologist to assign a significant relationship between scientific skepticism and a higher than ordinary susceptibility or aversion to the effects of cognitive dissonance would take years of study to establish. Michael bases his conclusion on the back of a few internet discussions and a rude biologist (foreshadowing).

Perhaps he is right, and these individuals DID display a higher than average cognitive dissonance, to then apply this to all, or even most skeptics is a ludicrous stretch. And its all based on an assumption anyway. Actually a series of them!

"When such a Skeptic is presented with evidence of the paranormal, he finds it deeply upsetting. (assumption)  He does not see it as a mildly annoying paradox or a funny, quirky story suitable for cocktail party conversation (assumption). He feels that it is an existential threat — a threat to the integrity of his ego, and therefore to his sense of self.(assumption) They are supersensitive to the discomfort, stress, and — yes — pain of having their worldview challenged (assumption)."

He then descends into blatant paranoia and a laughable conspiracy theory.

"This is why Skeptics are stridently hostile to parapsychology research(maybe skeptics are hostile to research with poor methodology? Is Chris French hostile to parapsychology research? That's odd, he conducts it. I think Michael has "hostility" confused with "blindly accepting flawed results" ).

They cheer when a parapsychology lab closes. (I don't know any skeptics that "cheer" when any form of lab closes, I haven't read any articles or blogs that do so, that said there may well be some who do. What Michael needs to do is cite an example here. Of course he doesn't bother. Remember too, there were also Christians who celebrated when Christopher Hitchens died. Should one assume that all Christians felt this way? Of course not, because we know such generalisations are facile.)

They insist that parapsychology papers be excluded from peer-reviewed journals, on principle (whoa whoa whoa. Since when do skeptics control what goes into a peer reviewed journal? Again maybe Psi research does not go into to journals because it isn't robust enough. The irony here is journals do publish Psi research on occasion. A recent paper by Darhyl Bem was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A replication of the study upon which the paper was based, which showed null results with improved methodology by SKEPTIC and para-psychologist Chris French was rejected by the same paper. How does that fit your conspiracy narrative Michael?
There's actually a much more simple explanation why peer reviewed journals are wary of psi-research.  In the 1970s, Israelli born serial spoon-botherer Uri Geller was tested by Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ at the Stanford Research Institute. the results of these series of tests were published in none other than Nature. The problem was, the methodology Targ and Putoff employed was woeful, and promptly tore to pieces. The result was a critical drubbing for Nature and Targ and Putoff's careers in tatters. If you want to read more about this incident its covered in "The Truth About Uri Geller" by James Randi.
They agitate to have parapsychology, as a field, ousted from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (where is the proof of this! Again I can no trace of a campaign by skeptics to do this anywhere on the net. The only mention of "agitation" appears in pro Psi blogs such as this. Its a conspiracy theory nothing more. This is just paranoia. This isn't a mindset that is unique to Michael either, other Psi supporters have hinted at a conspiracy against psi. In 2014 Frontiers In Human Neuroscience published an opinion piece centred around a petition signed by 100 signatories to end the taboo around Psi. The problem is at no point did they gives examples of this taboo. It then goes on to suggest that only a few scientists actually consider Psi a taboo! By definition its not a taboo then. You can read more about that here. (see Michael, sources.)."
"If parapsychology is a scam, why not expose it by making it as public as possible?" (Again, no evidence of this. No links to any skeptic making this claim. I don't think Psi research is a scam)
As you can see Michael is telling us time after time: what skleptics think. Where is any evidence for this?

Well he does give a second hand account of a Lewis Wolpert being rude and dismissive to one of Psi's most controversial figures, Rupert Sheldrake. I've actually never heard of Wolpert perhaps because he is prominently a biologist and my area of interest is in physics. I've also not actually seen any evidence that he has ever declared himself a skeptic.
"A clear example of this psychology was on display in a public debate between Rupert Sheldrake and Lewis Wolpert..... (as told by Sheldrake) Well, I noticed that when the parrot film was showing, Lewis wasn't looking at it! That film was shown on television and in [an] early stage of our investigations, he did the same then. They asked a sceptic to commentate. Lewis appeared on the screen and he said, Telepathy is just junk; there is no evidence whatsoever for any personal, animal or thing being telepathic. The filmmakers were surprised that he hadn't actually asked to see the evidence before he commented on it, and I think, this is rather like the Cardinal Bellarmine and people not wanting to look through Galileo's Telescope. I think we have a level here of just not wanting to know, which is not real science. I'm sorry to have to say it, Lewis."( so Wolpert didn't watch Sheldrake's psychic parrot video which Rupert laughingly compares to Galileo's telescope! Should he have watched it before commenting on it? Most definitely. Yes. Was he rude for not watching it? Yes. Did he do this because he fears a video of a psychic parrot will shatter his worldview? I can't possibly say, but I'd find it more disturbing if he watched it then pulled out of the debate.)
Prescott then goes on to assert that this is due to Wolpert's aversion to cognitive dissonance, which he can't possibly know, but even if he is correct to extrapolate this behaviour to ALL SKEPTICS or even many is ludicrous. Wolpert may also be averse to cous-cous, are all skeptics? The behaviour of one individual, or ten even can't be used to assess the qualities a whole sub-set of humanity!

Prescott continues:

"Because any evidence for psi or life after death is so disturbing to him, the Skeptic tends to avoid it whenever possible. But if he cannot avoid it, then he must find a way to neutralize it. The need is urgent, which is why the first available explanation consistent with his preconceptions is eagerly seized upon. This is also why Skeptics are "debunkers" at heart; their impulse is not to engage with the evidence but to dismiss it as quickly as possible."
Evidence for Psi isn't disturbing to me for one fundamental reason: I haven't seen any evidence. Michael complains that evidence that isn't avoided is neutralized. I'd suggest if it can be neutralized, it wasn't evidence it the first place. And if the first arrived at consistent argument is sufficient to neutralize the claim then of course its seized on. What Michael is complaining about is akin to a child found to fast in a game of hide and seek insisting that the peer who found him continue looking anyway because his victory was too swift.

Michael refers to this as the "fallacy of a glancing blow" which can be summed up with a simple image.

Michael is right on his final point to some extent. Some skeptics do dismiss things out of hand but these aren't the debunkers (personally I wouldn't even label them as skeptics, they are cynics, I make the distinction on this post), debunkers take things a part, examine them, search for rational explanations, mistakes made, assumptions made, that's how you debunk. You read, you research, you investigate. A lot of skeptics hate to be call a debunker. I'm quite proud of it. I made this point to a friend once who called me a debunker.

"I would have been able to debunk it if it wasn't bunk to begin with."

This applies here. If the evidence for Psi was robust, it couldn't be neutralised or debunked. The fault doesn't lie at the feet of the skeptic, its in the hands of the researcher. Michael doesn't seem to know that if Psi is accepted as legitimate non-fringe science one day, it will be subject to vicious peer review. If the research falls down at this stage will he call these reviewers "debunkers"? Will he accuse those who fail to replicate the results of conspiracy?

Because its peer review that skeptics are approximating when they "debunk" Psi-claims.

All the talk of avoidance and denial is particularly ironic in Michaels post. Know what the number one method of participants in a debate avoiding the objections of their opponent is? Poisoning the well, attacking a source and their justification for holding an opinion.... Like for instance saying "Skeptics' opinions about Psi are invalid because they are afraid of it changing their worldview".

When Michael makes the following claim:
"Skeptics are not good at introspection. They are largely unacquainted with their own psychology and thus blind to their biases. They may even flatter themselves with the belief that they are uniquely unbiased. Biases are for other people, not them. "
More sweeping generalisation, followed by a claim that has to make me wonder "does Michael even know what a skeptic is?" As a skeptic I'm painfully aware of my own bias, but I'm also aware that is what the scientific method is for. To remove bias. I'm always acutely aware of the words of Richard Feynman when I look at a claim paranormal or otherwise:

Like I said earlier, I myself don't accept psi as a phenomena because I simply don't see any convincing empirical evidence. I've been pointed to a lot of psi-research and I've found the majority of it falls down some where in the methodology, or the lack of successful replication. I am deeply offended when its implied that I in some way fear Psi changing my world view. Its a cheap way to defend one's beliefs to say those that don't share them are afraid.

Have I made my mind up about Psi? Not necessarily. But it isn't getting a pass for just being at the serious end of the paranormal spectrum, and attracting researchers with legitimate scientific backgrounds. Even Sheldrake, often dismissed as crank, is a fearsomely intelligent man performing legitimate but, I my opinion, fundamentally flawed research. Nor should Psi believers assume that well presented papers grant immediate legitimacy. That only comes through full submittal to the scientific method, including replication and peer review.

Part of the reason Psi-research is fringe science is due to its struggle to generate funding from independent backers, if the field was producing replicable results with solid methodology. Again here we have a case were if "believers" in Psi and researchers actually stopped and listened to what horrible, nasty skeptics, had to say to them rather than responding with vitriol, and trying to dismiss their objections, they could actually improve their methodology and perhaps produce robust, empirical evidence of Psi, thus gaining more funding!

As for Michael, I'm sorry he's had some bad online experiences with people identifying as "skeptics." Perhaps unsurprisingly so have I. Take what happened to me when a popular science page on Facebook shared one of my last posts: "Physics .Vs Phantom." The aim of the post was to critically assess whether the laws of physics support the existence of the classical ghosts as such it seemed posting the piece under this rhetorical question. Which elicited the following response:


Just "No"

Certainly this is the conclusion I came to but I could've saved myself a lot of effort just by typing no and walking away, assured in my conclusion. So why didn't I?

Because I'm a skeptic. Above all else. I'm not interested in sneeringly dismissing claims, I want to assess them. I'm not looking for evidence for a predetermined conclusion that I've already reached. Sure, occasionally when I look at a claim I'm pretty sure what I'll find, but I look and assess anyway.

Because doing anything else simply doesn't help anyone. Bad skepticism is as futile as unquestioning belief.

In fact blanket dismissals such as Joe's play right into the hands of some believers, who use responses such as this to muddy the waters and blur the line between skeptic and cynic. It's a tactic I run against frequently, present a reasoned assessment of a claim only to have a believer poison the well, claiming that all skeptics just dismiss the paranormal out of hand, even though that's clearly not what has happened.
Responses like this also serve to alienate and anger other believers, creating an up hill battle for those the apply skepticism to simply inform believers how we operate. Some of the most heated discussions I've had on the subject of the paranormal regarding the definition of "skeptic."

I think Joe is the kind of person that Michael is addressing.


Doesn't matter if he identifies as one, he simply isn't meeting the criteria required to claim that title. He's a cynic pure and simple. And an arse. And probably a troll who enjoys ripping on the work of others.


Michael, if you happen to read this, I will take a look at whatever you feel is the gold standard of Psi research. One paper. Simply because I don't have time to do more, scientific papers take a long time to read, and require further research. What I want avoid is what happened the last time I discussed psi, I was inundated with articles from multiple  people. So its one paper, not an article about a paper or an opinion piece.

I'm offering this in good faith and hope you can see your opinion of skeptics in general is skewed and based on misunderstanding... and I think... quite a bit of anger.

This believer vs skeptic nonsense is old hat and unhelpful.

Over to you Michael.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Bashing the Bishop. Examining the Claims and activities of James Long.

Ever since I reviewed Destination America's "Demon Files" and found it to be one of the most exploitative, trashy pieces of schlock ever to be vomited onto a television screen, I've been inundated with requests* to review Destination America's other recent exploit into the "demonic" Exorcism Live. The truth is I haven't seen it and probably won't. I have recently taken a look into one of the show's participants Bishop James Long, who has participated in a few other paranormal shows, is an author, an educator and an investigator.

You may deploy your pinch of salt now.

 In addition to his Bishop and exorcist status, Long claims to be a demonologist, which as I've pointed out before is a title as meaningless as Fairyologist in the context that Long and others employ it. He is the founder of The Paranormal Clergy, a group that offers to cleanse and exorcise the homes of "demonic infestation". Their website offers advice on how you can tell if your home is occupied by a demon.

According to the group signs of demonic possession include amongst foul smells, growling sounds and badly behaved animals, knocking sound emanating from walls :

Wait.... Long and his group consider Poltergeist activity to be a logical explanation!

Perhaps not surprisingly the Paranormal Clergy's site contains not a jot of skepticism or room for doubt that demons actually exist. There is no attempt to even evidence the claim, the closest we get is this:

WOW... that is simply stated. Unfortunately to many people "Believe it because I've seen it" isn't a terribly convincing argument, especially considering the adage popularised by Carl Sagan "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

Let's say you are convincing by being TOLD what you should believe, in fact you are so convinced that you want to become a demonologist and fight evil, Long has great news for you! He operates his own ParaUniversity were you can study.

Before you enrol though there are a few thing Long thinks you need to know. First and foremost his definition of Demonologist:

Hmmm... so be a demonologist you have to research the field (well yeah), and devote your life to that study.... that's a bit vague. You also have to be appointed by your Church leadership to investigate demonic cases. So Long has been endorsed by the Catholic Church? Yes... not the Roman Catholic Church... of course. One of the other ones. The United States Old Catholic Church.

Now stop that. The United States Old Catholic Church is totally a legitimate Church! According to their own website anyway!

And its a good job because, as Long states in this interview, one has to have good knowledge of scripture if one wishes to be a demonologist. Just declaring oneself to be a Christian isn't good enough, and Being a pagan is certainly out, if a Pagan weilds a crucifix it won't to anything to a demon he states (watch from around twenty minutes in).

These statements lead to some fundamental inconstancies in Long's worldview: Firstly, his own knowledge of Scripture, or certainly his interpretation,  has been quite heavily criticised. Reverand Jack Ashcroft had these comments to make regarding Long's book "Through the eyes of an Exorcist":

"I've read many books on the subject of exorcism, spiritual warfare, angelology and demonology, yet none were as light on content and, in my opinion, demonstrative of the author's lack of theological knowledge.... Long starts off by telling us there are four types of spirit entities that interact with the living; Human, Inhuman, Elementals and Poltergeists. I can only assume this classification is an invention of the author, since it does not come from Christian theology, either Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. Long writes of homes he claims are “haunted” by human spirits...the idea that the spirits of the dead are hanging around haunting people is Biblically fallacious. The Apostle Paul tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (II Cor. 5:8) There is no intermediate state wherein “ghosts” can stick around to bother the living. Beyond this, even if one were to take a different theological position on that matter, (On Long's use of smudging in Blessings) smudging would be out of the question. Smudging is a Native American animistic practice and as such would fall under the prohibitions of Deut. 18:10-12. The fact that Long either does not know this, or at best ignores these facts is quite disturbing considering his claim to be a Christian clergyman."

You can read the first part of the review which elaborates on Long's issues with scripture here.

Another of Long's inconstancies is his rejection of Wicca and paganism, in fact at 30:00 in the interview he positively rages at paganism and Wicca. But as Rev. Ashcroft points out above, Long uses smudging in his rituals- part of Native American paganism- at 33:00 Long specifically states he has no right performing Paganistic rituals... yet he does anyway! Long's philosophy seems to be a hodge-podge of what ever practices appeal to him.

Also if he rejects Wicca and Paganism what does that tell us about his own Paranormal Clergy team, which consists of two shamans! By Long's own standards it tells us we probably should be entrusting the exorcism of the family dog to them. The way Long rants in the interview one would suspect that he wouldn't trust a shaman to walk the family dog, never mind rid it of demons!

Also consider the symbol Long's team uses on the right here. Seems to encourage secularism right?
But on the very same site Long states his "theory" that exorcism rituals are being made too secular. This is a theory he is so proud of he puts a trade mark after printing it!

You can't trademark a theory you bloody idiot!

Add to these inconsistencies a charge of outright hypocrisy. At 37:00 minutes into the interviews he states that he went on Ghost Adventures to publicise the services his groups offers. "I just couldn't afford that kind of advertising" he states. He then goes on to rail about "attention seekers" on paranormal TV shows! According to his own profile on this website you've appeared on all of the following channels and shows.

Long states that this was to publicise endeavours that he does for free, but he blatantly solicits donations not for his Church, but for his personal ministry.

Also a course in Demonology at his ParaUniversity is anything but free! This is from man who explicitly states "I don't charge for anything." Sorry, that's an outright lie and to claim some moral superiority for doing everything for free when you know that you're charging $99 for your "expertise" is disgraceful. Long calls exorcists performing exorcisms via Skype "shysters" for charging for the service: I agree but how is he any better?

Also you'll notice that the required reading for this highly academic course are trashy shlock available from Amazon for $1.99! Here's a snippet you'll read from your first "textbook" as you embark on your "higher learning". Its highly complex so be prepared.

Taken from Dark Siege 1: A Connecticut Family's Nightmare.  Reprinted for purposes of criticism and review.

The book continues in this vain, like a poor horror novel that purports to be a "true story." How does this sample stack up with the course description offered by Long?

Hmmmm.... its hardly "research" or "data" is it?

If you want to examine Long's motivation for his work as a demonologist listen to that interview I posted from about 1 hour 4. Long complains for twenty minutes about not earning enough money. About receiving only a "twenty dollar donation" or at one point "lousy ten dollar donation" for a job he did.

Charming. One presumes that he didn't embark on his calling for financial reward? He sure as hell gives that impression in that interview.

Inconsistencies, hypocrisy, outright lies, greed, bitterness, anger..... If I thought my house was occupied by a demon, I'd be tempted to stick with rather than call in Long. The demon isn't the only thing giving off a foul smell.

There's a lot around Long that stinks.

*One request... well suggestion. What can I say, I'm easily inundated.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Faire quelque chose d'utile au lieu...

As I was writing the latest blog post about something that just seems inconsequential now, the news came in of terrorist attacks in Paris. It wasn't long before the Pray For Paris memes and hashtag appeared on social media, and that was quickly followed by people such as myself saying...

"No let's not pray for Paris. Let's do something useful instead." Such as donating to the following aid agencies for example, which are on the ground helping the victims of these atrocities.

Of course saying this has resulting in choruses of me being called heartless, by let's face it, morons. What I'm advocating is a course of action that will result in people actually being helped. Praying can't be shown to help anyone... In fact the only person it actually helps is the person doing the praying. It helps them sate their conscious, to feel as if they've done something when in fact they've done the bare minimum.

Let's face it, if these people's god exists, then they are praying to an omnipotent being that had the ability to jam the terrorists guns, or turn them into tapioca, or make a "BANG!!!" sign drop out of the ends of them like a Loony Tunes cartoon... Their god, did nothing. If they believe in this god, they must believe he allowed this, rubber-stamped it, passed it through the planning stages...


Their fictional god is heartless....

If cognitive dissonance, the mechanism by which we all rationalise contradictory information and beliefs,  was a metric, measurements  would be off the scale right now as the religious try to justify their gods in action. "God gave us free will, it would be wrong of him to interfere!" They will squawk. But why does the free will of the gunmen to massacre these innocent people trump that of the victims? Why was their free will not to be massacred not taken into account?

This is part of a philosophical argument known as the problem of evil that the Abrahamic religions have struggled to overcome almost since inception. I won't discuss it further because it strays from the point, but you can read more about it here.

I'm not heartless, I would just prefer to see people actually doing something that genuinely helps these people.

There's another reason that I find the suggestion of prayer as a solution here as ironic.

It was blind belief in a stone-age barbaric religious system that led to this atrocity in the first place!

And if you are a Christian who thinks that Islam is a barbaric religion and your faith somehow isn't, sorry guys, Islam is just behind the curve. Christianity had the market cornered for religious brutality Centuries ago. The Crusades for example: The conquering of Jerusalem (1099) over 60,000 Jewish, Moslem women and children slaughtered, and that was one event in an almost 200 year campaign! And that is just one "Holy war".

Closer to home the torture and burning of hundreds of thousands of innocent woman as witches, based on one line in the King James Bible: "thou shall not suffer a witch to live"Exodus 22:18 based on a mistranslation from the original Hebrew. Know when the last "witch" was tried? Helen Duncan imprisoned for witchcraft in 1956.

As that shows Christian atrocities aren't limited to the distant past, Google Catholic Ustasha camps in such as Jasenovac (1941), between 300,000 -600, 000 Serbians murdered if they refused to convert to Catholicism. Jasenovac Memorial Area maintains a list of the names of 83,145 Jasenovac victims, including 47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Romanies (gypsies), 13,116 Jews, 4,255 Croats, 1,128 Bosnian Muslims, 266 Slovenes. Of the 83,145 named victims, 20,101 are children under the age of 14, and 23,474 are women, sure this was an extremist sect of Catholism, just like the Muslim extremists you are concerned about perhaps?

What about the actual Catholic church? The Pope's unwavering stance on contraception which is a major contributing factor in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Africans from HIV? Sorry pal but if you are going to get on your high horse about brutal religions Islam hasn't got shit on Christianity yet.

Does this make all Christians blood thirsty barbarians? Of course not. Most Christians are thoroughly decent people, as are most Muslims. The problem here isn't one religion... its all of them. There isn't a religious ideology that isn't prone to fundamentalism, belief that whatever action you take is supported by a personal deity that thinks just like you and shares your prejudices and will actual reward violence against your perceived enemies is a dangerous idea.

Its an idea that will always lead to bloodshed.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
         Steven Weinberg

I know there are many of you who will violently disagree with what I've wrote here. That's fine. And if you want to pray for the people of Paris, do so. But please make sure that's not all you do.

Here are those links for donations again:

I'll leave you with the words of Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Safar

Monday, 9 November 2015

Physics .Vs Phantom: Do the laws of physics allow for the existence of ghosts?

A few weeks ago I overheard a friend talking about Nick Groff, who, due to my disdain for ghost hunting on television, I'd never been aware of. My friend assured me that Groff had some amazing "theories" about ghosts and how Einstein PROVED that ghosts exist. I was, of course, a bit skepitical and decided to Google Groff and his ideas when I got home. (She also asserted, by the way, that Ghost Adventures isn't like all the other ghost hunting TV and its much more serious. After watching one episode, I am considering recommending her a course of cognitive behavioural therapy).

This led me to this page from the Huff Post, 2012 . apparently an excerpt from a book, Groff tells us what a ghost is and he asserts that due to the law of the conservation of energy, the energy within a human being must "go somewhere" when that human dies. The major flaw with this idea, and it isn't Groff's alone, I've heard and read hundreds of people espouse this, the major problem being the wooly definition of "energy" some paranormal enthuasists have. Certainly the energy within a human being doesn't disappear when a human dies, some of it is dissipated as heat, much of it remains as chemical energy, which is consumed and converted to other forms of energy by detritivores, organisms that feed on dead and decaying material.

Essentially the majority of the energy which we are comprised of returns to the food chain. As Ben Raford says in this excellent article for live science:
"Most of the "energy" that any dead person leaves behind takes years to re-enter the environment in the form of food; the rest dissipates shortly after death, and is not in a form that can be detected years later with popular ghost-hunting devices like electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors. Ghost hunters who repeat the claim that Einstein's theories provide a sound basis for ghosts reveal less about ghosts than they do about their poor understanding of basic science. Ghosts may indeed exist, but neither Einstein nor his laws of physics suggests that ghosts are real." (Radford, 2011)

Radford's assertion of poor understanding of science certainly holds for Groff who at one point in his article makes this statement:
"It's called the law of conservation of energy. It means that if you take an isolated system, such as a person, the energy contained in that person can't be destroyed. "(Groff, 2012)
But Nick is fundamentally wrong here, consider the definition of an isolated system:

physics) A system that does not interact with its surroundings, that is, its total energy and mass stay constant. Wiktionary

Therefore living organisms in no way constitute an isolated system, even a corpse is receiving energy from its surroundings in the form of heat, and losing mass due to consumption by other organisms.

So with this in mind I decided to take a look at some reputed attributes and abilities of ghosts as documented by eyewitness accounts and see how these stack up against other laws of physics and finally one of physics finest discoveries.

In the form of a boxing match.... 'cos.... reasons...

 It's only fitting that in round 1 we put perhaps the most reported feature in ghost accounts, the fact that move and more specifically walk, occasionally through walls, up against the first laws of physics.


Round 1: Walking Dead .Vs Newton's Laws of Motion

"Sightings of the Grey Lady walking the Ghost Corridor have been part of local legend from before the Victorian era. Dressed in grey and in Tudor style, the grey lady walks the length of the corridor and turns right before the end to disappear through a wall. In the 1960’s the lath and plaster removed from this wall revealed a Tudor doorway – at the exact spot where the grey lady walks through the wall!" (The Grey Lady of  Gainborough Hall) 
Now with that in mind let's consider Newton's first law:
"Newton's First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force." (hyperphysics)
Therefore from this we can gather that in order for a ghost to begin to move there must be some force acting on our spook. You and I move by applying a downward force on the floor, which in turn applies an equal and opposite force on us according to Newton's third law:
 "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object." (Physics class room)

It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume ghosts move in the same way, in addition to many eyewitness accounts of seeing spirits walking, ghostly footsteps are also a commonly reported phenomena as well as ghosts climbing stairs. Ghost hunting groups often advise amateurs to detect ghost pathways by dusting surfaces with flour or other fine powders.

 This leads us to conclude that the ghost must be material, its the only way to exert the required force.

What happens when they walk into a wall?

Round 2: Walking through walls .Vs the Pauli Exclusion Principle and Electromagnetic Repulsion.

The Pauli exclusion forbids electrons from cramming into the same state defined by four principle quantum numbers, matter passing through matter would require just this. In addition to this even though the majority of an atom is technically empty space, a popular analogy being a football placed on the centre circle of a football stadium representing the nucleus and a fruit fly orbiting the outer wall representing an electron, that "empty space" is filled with electromagnetic force. Its the repulsion between these forces that forbids matter from passing through matter.

Sorry Kitty, phasing on a macroscopic scale isn't possible.

Also if ghosts are material they can't possibly pass through a wall as an immaterial object, otherwise logically they would just pass through the floor, even if this can be controlled at will, a ghost would have to simultaneously material and immaterial to at once both exert force on the floor and pass through the wall.

While we are on the subject of physical interaction...
"21.4pm: We ... found two chairs had been stacked on top of one another on top of the table in the bedroom.
12.40pm: Bed, box and drawers were heard moving in [Robert's] bedroom] upstairs.
5.00pm. The chest of drawers [from Robert's room] was pulled out onto the landing on the top of the stairs and the large box full of stuff was moved from one bedroom to another.
5.10pm. While in the bedroom two toys were thrown at Marianne and Marc.
5.20pm: the door leading into the kitchen opened three times on its own.."-Incidents logged in the South Shields Poltergeist Case (Halowell,  Ritson, 2005) 
The ability to pick up and interact with objects such as documented above is another  aspect of ghost accounts that would require them to be physical material objects consisting of atoms. To move, pick up or interact with an object there must be friction. Friction is generated when two surfaces move against each other, again requiring that our spook is some phase of physical matter.

Ghost hunters and believers in general seem to have no objection to the physical nature of ghosts, but ability to interact with the physical world comes at a price.

Round 3: Instant dematerialisation .VS the Conservation of mass.

What does being a physical object consisting of atoms tell us about a ghost's ability to appear and disappear at will?
“She hopped right in the front seat. She had on this fancy kind of white dress, like she’d just been to a wedding or something, and those new kinds of disco-type shoes, with the straps and that.... I asked her where she was going and she said she had to get home. I asked her what was wrong, if she’d had car trouble or what but she really didn’t answer me. She was fuzzy. Maybe she’d had a couple of drinks or something or was just tired. I don’t know.... A couple of miles up Archer there, she jumped with a start like a horse and said ‘Here! Here!’ I hit the brakes.... I looked around and didn’t see any kind of house. ‘Where?’ I said. And then she sticks out her arm and points across the road to my left and says ‘There!’ And that’s when it happened.... I looked to my left, like this, at this little shack. And when I turned she was gone. Vanished! And the door never opened. May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.” (Cab driver Ralph gives his account of an encounter with Chicago area's Resurrection Mary.  Suburban Tribune, January 31, 1979)

There are hundreds of accounts of hitch-hiking ghost riding in cars, opening doors, sitting on seats.... all things requiring a material structure, and then vanishing, something not consistent with matter. There is currently no known way for matter to dematerialise, even a state change wouldn't constitute true dematerialisation  as reported in these accounts. True dematerialisation would violate another conservation law. The Conservation of mass. Mass can't simply disappear, it can only change from one state to another.

I can hear the protests already.... Energy mass equilevence..... E= mc^2... E=mc^2.... what if ghosts are comprised of "energy"?

Round 4: Ghosts as energy .Vs The second law of thermodynamics!

Let's start by looking at what the second law of thermodynamics tells us:
"...the entropy of an isolated system does not decrease". This is often taken to mean that "disorder always increases" and is frequently misinterpreted. Another way of putting it is "an isolated system's ability to do work decreases over time". The second law provides the thermodynamic arrow of time in that one can tell the difference between the past and the future by looking at the amount of entropy in the closed system...." (Rational Wiki)
This would mean that the structure of form of the energy representing the ghost would become more disordered and less able to do work as time progressed. This would be more evident if the ghost was expending energy over a number of years by playing pianos and throwing pint pots in struggling English pubs.

“It’s my view that the existence of ghosts would contravene the second law of thermodynamics,” he said, “The principle of the conservation of energy, and the fact that entropy always increases; you’d be hard put to throw that away. You’d have to rip the book up; that’s what it would imply if you saw a ghost.” (Brian Cox, 2011)
Therefore ghosts would need a pretty much constant source of energy to remain ordered. Which brings us to....Cold spots, which many ghost hunters take to be an attempt by a ghost or spirit to draw energy from its surrounding:
" Everything that enters an environment, even ghosts, change it in some way. When we move, breath etc. we stir up the air around us, our collective body temperatures raise the temperature.The most common theory for why cold spots occur is when a ghost is in an area they use the heat in order to manifest.." (Seeks Ghosts, 2011)
The problem with this is that heat is only exchanged between a colder body and a hotter one until a thermal equilibrium is reached, i.e both bodies are the same temperature. Heat exchange between a body and the atmosphere surrounding it, and another body in that atmosphere, would happen via convection. This would result in convections currents as seen opposite (replace the window with our spook).What we would experience is cycle of cool air falling and hot air rising through the area, not isolated cold areas.

The principle of  thermodynamic equilibrium simply doesn't allow for heat to be drawn at will in a limited area, the exchange of heat would spread to all areas in thermal contact. A far more likely explanation for cold spots are draughts. As the feeling of cold is not actually due to temperature as such but the rate at which heat is drawn from us, a far more likely explanation for a sudden cold sensation is exposure to a column of cold air.

Aside from this, temperature changes are one of the most commonly misread pieces of data by some ghost hunters, and thermometers the most commonly misused piece of kit.
"Infrared thermometers are the most blatantly misused of the ghost hunting tools, so are a great place to start. These handheld devices measure the temperature of the object they are pointed at. They work exactly like your vision, except that they are sensitive to far infrared instead of the visible spectrum. They measure surface temperatures, just like your vision measures surface colors. If you can see something, an IR thermometer can measure its temperature. However, ghost hunters use these devices to detect what they believe are cold spots in rooms. IR thermometers are not capable of detecting something without a visible surface. In fact, an IR thermometer is even less likely than your vision to see a hazy apparition. Firefighters use infrared because the longer wavelengths of infrared penetrate smoke more effectively than the shorter wavelength of visible light; so if therewere a hazy invisible apparition floating in the middle of the room, infrared is perhaps the worst technology to detect it. Variations of IR readings inside a room are merely showing temperature gradations on the walls, caused by heating and AC, insulation variances, studs, wiring, or pipes behind the wall, radiant heat, recent proximity of another ghost hunter, sunlight, temperatures in adjacent rooms, or countless other causes." (Brian Dunning, 2008)

Final Round: Ghosts .Vs Electron Neutrinos.

The electron neutrino is a tiny, charge less, massless particle, which travel at essentially the speed of light, they are unaffected by the electromagnetic force and the strong nuclear force, in fact they have so little effect on the physical world more than a million, million neutrinos have streamed through your head as you read this passage.

Compare this with the physical effects attributed to ghosts: hurling objects, causing immediate and rapid temperature drops, communicating with cab drivers....

And yet we have evidence for neutrinos. After their existence was first proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930, and renamed by Enrico Fermi in 1932 it took only around 18 years to start detecting them. By 1970 experiments were running using a dry cleaning fluid, yes really, in South Dakota to detect and measure solar neutrinos.

Part of the problem with these early experiments was the deficit in the number of detected neutrinos and those predicted by theories solar interior function.  By 1999 we had developed experiments to observe neutrinos changing form, thus resolving this solar-neutrino problem.

So how long have we been searching for evidence of ghosts? Things with clearly measurable attributes and supposedly very definite effects on the physical world?

And yet nothing.....

If that isn't the knockout punch, physics certainly wins here on points. To accept the existence of ghosts requires the rewriting of all of the above laws and theories of physics, does that mean that we should stop looking. Not necessarily, but believers must accept that a high standard of evidence is required to start rewriting the text books.