Is it Possible to Study the ‘Paranormal’?

August 18, 2010

About a week ago I received an e-mail from a person interested in my new book, Scientific Paranormal Investigation . He questioned the premise of paranormal investigation

“This is a real honest question ... how do you investigate something, anything... that is paranormal? All those things that are not real... the paranormal is pure nonsense...”

Since his question was a common one, I gamely replied:

Thanks for writing. It's a fair question, but in order to answer it you have to look at the assumption underlying your question. There are two answers: 

1) How do you investigate the paranormal? Just like you investigate anything else in the world, whether a crime or a scientific principle or a new disease or new plant. This is not to say that the investigation is easy or intuitive-- in fact it takes skill and training, which is why I wrote a book and developed a workshop on it. The way we determine what is real or not real is through scientific investigation.

2) You state that the paranormal is "not real" and "pure nonsense." Assuming that's true,how do you know? Why do you think that? Why are you convinced that ghosts and psychics and Bigfoot and other "paranormal" topics are not real? Did you just guess, or do they just not "seem" real to you? You should have valid reasons for rejecting those claims-- not just "Well,they seem silly," because that reduces these topics to mere opinion. And it's also exactly the same "evidence" offered by many believers:"I don't have any real evidence, but it seems true to me."

The issue of whether the paranormal exist or not is not determined by opinion or guesses, but scientific evidence. And the way to find out whether these topics exist or not is through scientific investigation. In a nutshell, an informed skeptic should be able to offer real evidence and arguments for rejecting paranormal claims. I hope this answers your question; I talk about this in chapter 2 of my book where I discuss misunderstandings about what the "paranormal" is. 



#1 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 at 9:52pm

I disagree.  The onus is on the person proposing a thing.  The amount of time other people spend disproving it should be relative to the amount of credible evidence supplied by the people making the claim.  Certainly, also, it is not reasonable to expect each individual on the planet to carry out similar de-bunking tests of everything that anyone proposes.  The default assumption is that it’s all nonsense, until enough credible evidence accumulates to make it worth testing.  So far, I’ve seen no reasonable evidence that anything paranormal exists.  Indeed the word “paranormal” itself suggests that these things don’t exist.  If we could demonstrate them, they would become normal.  Bad for business, of course.

(Your human-tester at bottom of this form seems to think cherries only come in one color…)

#2 gomezuk on Thursday August 19, 2010 at 5:08am

To study the paranormal we first have to study our own rational thinking as to why we believe there is such a thing as the paranormal. Mind Conditioner

#3 Eric Charles on Thursday August 19, 2010 at 8:15am

I think the problem your writer points out is inherent in the term “paranormal”. For many people, though clearly not for you, the name implies an inability to investigate the phenomenon by normal means. As Randy points out above, if we could investigate these phenomenon by normal means, and demonstrate their existence in the normal ways… well… then we would just call them “normal”.

So, your call to investigate proposed, under-investigated phenomenon, I support, but why not drop the air of mystery?

#4 Pau (Guest) on Friday August 20, 2010 at 5:02am

This writer seems to be interested in promoting his book, i.e.:
” I hope this answers your question; I talk about this in chapter 2 of my book ...”

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