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.