Friday, 28 March 2014

A New Low. Why Over Enthusiastic Believers Are Damaging To The Paranormal Community.

Anyone who has recently visited a paranormal page or joined a paranormal group on Facebook probably knows that the standard of what is being presented as "evidence" there is incredibly low. I believe this low standard of evidence, more correctly described as data, and the refusal by some of these pages to countenance any contrary positions is seriously damaging to the credibility of paranormal research, which let's face it, isn't exactly in good standing anyway. The problem is that these pages are some people's only experience with actual proposed paranormal data, if the idea is promoted that well understood photographic anomalies and cases of pareidolia represent paranormal phenomena if  data that supports the paranormal is out there it will be buried under a mountain of easily dismissed rubbish.

Here're a couple of examples from a page I visited this morning. I find the fact that reasonable adults are passing this off as paranormal phenomena extremely troubling.

1. No trouble in Little China.

The poster (who is also the page admin) claimed this was "A ghost manifestation through steam." Sorry but all I see is steam coming off plates of hot food, to present this as paranormal in any way shape or form strikes me as utterly desperate. This doesn't even require a modicum of research to dismiss, anyone who has eaten a hot meal can dismiss this out of hand. I think this maybe the weakest example of "evidence" for the paranormal I've ever encountered, and that is really saying something. Example two is slightly trickier (and I stress "slightly" here).

2. Blurred Lines. 

The proposed ghost on the right side of the photo, this an effect caused by an individual moving while the camera shutter is open, the effect is more extreme the longer the shutter is open or more accurately the slower the shutter speed. Look at the example below and ask yourself how long until this is posted on a Facebook paranormal page as evidence that piano players have "ghost arms"?

3. A mist opportunity.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous form of paranormal photograph on these pages is the mysterious "mist" photograph. We are told by the poster that the below example was taken as he "...stepped onto my patio to take a picture of the snow on my neighbor's tree to send to my sisters in Miami...."

 Hmmm.... Let's unpack this. So he wanted to photograph the snow, so presumably, it was a cold evening. Meaning that it is likely that the photographers breath would be visible, The warm breath expelled is likely to be warmer than the cool air into which it is released, causing it to rise and obscure the camera's lens. Add to that the effect of the light from the flash highlighting the condensed breath... and voilĂ ... there's your mist. 

These are just three examples from one page, there are hundreds of pages just the same or very similar, offering "evidence" that is just as weak and easily dismissed. Of course, people are posting contrary views and rational explanations, on these three photos, without exception, these explanations were immediately deleted and the posters blocked.

The individual/individuals doing this may think they are protecting their views and beliefs, but all they are really doing is creating an insular network of believers with a zero-level standard of evidence and critical thinking. All that serves to do is make the views of the whole community seem laughable and unworthy of legitimate investigation.

Until believers start to separate the wheat from the mountains of chaff, very few in mainstream  science will believe there was ever any wheat there to begin with....