Thursday, December 13, 2007

Specific things.

I think Dikkii and I have come to, if not an agreement, at least a cease-fire for the moment. So I'll take the opportunity of this lull to state exactly what aspects of the paranormal I study, what I'd be interested in studying, and what I won't touch.

I study ghosts. Both kinds. By which I mean those 'replay' phenomena in which no spirit presence is required as an explanation, and those 'interacting' phenomena which would indicate that some (often not much) intelligence functions within them. Some I currently think are human ghosts, some I currently think are non-human spirits. I have seen more than one, so I continue to work on obtaining proof, but I have no proof that would stand up to scientific scrutiny as yet. So, no concrete claims from me. I can't try for Randi's prize unless I can conjure a ghost on request. I can't, and wouldn't anyway. I'm a scientist, not a necromancer.

I don't study God, angels or demons. The ghosts I have seen, the experiences I have had, give me no reason to conclude that anyone is running the show. If there is a Heaven or a Hell, studying ghosts will not find those places. Ghosts, by definition, are still here so they haven't gone to Heaven or Hell, so there's no reason to suppose they'd know anything about either. God cannot be proven to not exist, so there is no experiment to formulate.

Evolution is not evidence of not-God, which is why I wonder at the religious determination to stamp on it. Suppose a God did make this world. He/she/it must have known it would change, age, mature. He would therefore have created life in such a way that it could adapt to those changes. I don't hold with the view that the Earth is only 6000 years old. There is too much evidence, from too many scientific disciplines, for me to take that view. I know many will disagree. But then, wouldn't it be a dull world if there was nothing to argue about? Reasoned arguments I like. Abuse I ignore. Religion, I have none.

Cryptozoology is something I would very much like to become involved with, but the difficulties I have are all practical. It would involve extensive travel, outside my budget. Getting a grant to look for something that might or might not be real is, if you'll excuse the vulgarity, as likely as staying dry while pissing into the wind. So I'd be interested, but can't get involved for practical reasons. I'm only about 100 miles from Loch Ness, but it's a very, very big body of water, other researchers are better equipped to study it than I am, and I hate boats.

You would think, since I study ghosts, that I'd be interested in mediums. Well, yes I am, but there are serious practical problems here too. Suppose a medium comes up with something that's not in the historical record. It can't be checked. Suppose they come up with something that is in the historical record. They could have looked it up beforehand. Proof is impossible, therefore study is futile. Still, if a medium can prove themselves to my satisfaction, I might make use of them in my research - but whatever they come up with will never constitute proof in itself. They might lead towards it, but they'll never be it.

Stage and TV psychics are all bunk. Evangelist TV preachers are a special case of the TV psychic. Same techniques, more profit. They fail when presented with someone thay can't get prior information on, and always succeed when they can get prior information. You know what would prove them? Years from now, you go to a psychic, and instead of coming out with the normal 'Jimmy or James', they say 'You read the writings of someone called Romulus'. How many people do you know called 'John/Jimmy/James/Dave/Doris/Doreen/Charles/Jo or Joe'? Quick straw poll - who can say they don't, and never have, known anyone by those names? I can think of several examples of each. The stage psychic's tricks have been shown up by James Randi and by Penn and Teller, to name just three (two and a half, unless Teller is standing in a hole). Which leads us to...

Magicians. I object to magicians in scientific studies, perhaps that's scientist's arrogance but that's how I feel about it. I don't object at all to magicians exposing fakes on TV. It's their study, they can run it how they like. If the claimant makes the claim on TV, then they can have no objection to being tested on TV. Those who crave TV exposure always fail. I think (opinion) that real psychics wouldn't be likely to show up on TV.

Magicians can replicate many of the physical aspects of claimed psychic powers, but that doesn't prove the psychic powers aren't real. Only that they can be replicated by trickery. As long as the magician can show how the effect was achieved, and is willing to let that be published, then they can help. If the can't reveal the trick, then there is no way to show that the subject used that trick. In that case, the subject can't be proved wrong so the experiment was pointless.

Telepathy, I've so far seen no evidence to suggest it's worth following it up with experiments. Telekinesis should be easy to prove, if it's real. It should involve no hand-waving if it's the Power of the Mind. Tricks like blowing and use of invisible strings or magnets are easy to knock down. Using massive concentration to move a pencil is worthless. I'll get up an interest in telekinesis when someone can turn a car over, or at least do something you couldn't just do with your hands.

Spoon bending. Whether it's real or not - why? Why spoons? Does the paranormal have a pathological hatred of this particular implement of cutlery? It might be real, but if it is, it seems silly. Bending keys, likewise, doesn't seem like a sensible thing to do. Bending steel girders might be useful. Until then, not interested.

There are more, but it's getting late and I think I've made the point. I study one aspect of a scientific field known as the paranormal. I don't study all of it by any means. I'm a 'woo-merchant' with a specific agenda. Actually, I quite like the term 'woo-merchant'. I should get cards printed with that on.

Homeopathy, acupuncture, faith-healing, to me come under 'alternative medicine' and are none of my business. I actually considered acupuncture once in one of my desperate attempts to kick the nicotine habit. Everyone I spoke to who'd tried it agreed on one thing. It's far from painless. So I didn't. It might still work though - 'smoke, and you'll have to come back for another session' could well be just the impetus I need.

Nah. Smoking hurts less.


tom sheepandgoats said...

Hi Romulus:

I'm curious what you make of this quote: (it is off someone's web site, yet I have read the substance in accomplished biographies of Abraham other words, it is not tabloid stuff.

Several American towns apparently heard reports of Lincoln's assassination before it actually happened. For example, George Kulzer (1831-1912), a pioneer of Stearns County, Minnesota, told the following story about St. Joseph, MN: "That was an eventful year, 1865. In April, an odd thing happened in St. Joseph. Early in the morning on Wednesday, the 14th, people were horror-stricken to hear that President Lincoln had been assassinated. No one knew how the news had arrived, since we had no telegraph. Later we heard that Mr. Lincoln had indeed been assassinated, but not until late in the evening of that day. No one remembered how the news had started. Weeks later, some of the Eastern papers heard of it and tried to infer that the priest of St. Joseph knew of a Catholic plot against the government and had spread the news prematurely. This was, of course, ridiculous. Father Bruno was indignant, but some people wanted to believe it, and many years later it would still be whispered." Mr. Kulzer was wrong on the day of the week as the 14th was a Friday. Manchester, New Hampshire, also received the news on that Good Friday before the press releases were dispatched from Washington. Also, on the afternoon of April 14, the Whig Press in Middleton, New York, announced that Lincoln had been killed by an assassin.

Other info here: (I don't vouch for any of this. Maybe true, maybe not)

Interesting? Or a yawner?

Romulus Crowe said...

Interesting, but in 1865 you'd have to be well off to own a watch and none had the day or date on them.

I've been self-employed for two years. The first thing I noticed was that, since I was no longer fixed into a Monday-to-Friday routine, I lost track of days. I would have been hard pressed to tell you which day a specific event happend on, even if I could recall the event itself with perfect clarity. After a while you get into the swing of things but for a time, forgetting which day it was, was normal.

My history knowledge is limited but I'm guessing that at the time, the only day that mattered was Sunday. Everyone went to church, believer or not, because if you didn't you'd be branded a Terrible Person. The rest of the week was just work-days. So, although the witnesses might recall it as being a Wednesday, they might be mistaken. Of course, all of that could be completely wrong.

I'll take a look at those links. Perhaps the statements were recorded in a local paper, with a fixed date. If so, and if this did indeed happen before the assassination, that would be interesting. Although the idea that someone planned to do this and let the news out too soon might have some merit also. I always thought the killer was a one-off lunatic, but as I said, I'm certainly no expert on American history.

Dikkii said...

I've only skimmed this one, and so far, you've covered a wide and varied bunch of areas.

One bit stood out though, and that was the bit about your nicotine habit.

I just read this over at Plonka's Blog. I wonder if you agree with the sentiments contained within.

Romulus Crowe said...

I called in on Plonka and left a comment. It's the same over here.

Still making attempts to stop smoking, but I have to do it without a single anti-smoker chalking me up as a 'score'. Call it bloodymindedness if you like, because that's exactly what it is.

ThatGreenyFlower said...

I had acupuncture several times, and it might or might not have done anything for me. Cupping, which is another oriental medicine practice, did actually help, but I quit with that when my practitioner set my hair on fire. (No, not kidding.) I bet if someone lit YOUR hair on fire, that would aid you in losing your nicotine addiction...what do you think?

Romulus Crowe said...

Depends. If my hair smells of cigars, I might just inhale the smoke.

Is cupping still around? I thought that disappeared centuries ago. I don't study alternative therapies, heck I don't even take aspirin or visit doctors, so I know little to nothing of these techniques. Whisky cures nothing, but makes you feel happy about being ill. Works for me.

Still, there are stranger things cropping up all the time. There's currently a website selling liquid-crystal-charged water, and they're in Australia which will particularly annoy Dikkii.

They annoy me too, because these cranks get added in to the 'paranormal' area, when they should be in the 'oh, come on' file. There's nothing paranormal about a con trick.

Dikkii said...

They annoy me too, because these cranks get added in to the 'paranormal' area, when they should be in the 'oh, come on' file. There's nothing paranormal about a con trick.

They're considered paranormal because their explanations defy normal rules of physics or biochemistry or physiology or some other orthodox scientific examination.

I'm going to have to look up this liquid-crystal-charged water thing. It sounds particularly grievous.

Romulus Crowe said...

The water thing was in New Scientist. I haven't looked it up but here's the URL they gave:

I suppose, to quote Douglas Adams, I'm 'demanding rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty'. Still, there has to be a point where things drop off the edge of the paranormal and into the range of the utterly ridiculous.

The problem would be getting agreement on where to set the edge.

opinions powered by