Over the last few months I had the unique opportunity of speaking about ghosts to two disparate groups. One was a local MENSA group and the other was a group called Society for Rational Thought, nicknamed The Skeptics.
Honestly, I was nervous about speaking before the MENSA group. After all, these were people whose I.Q.s were off the chart. What questions would they have for me? How thoroughly would they destroy my presentation and pick apart its bones afterward? Where could I hide?
To my grateful surprise, the group was engaged and interested in my talk. In fact, some of them had encountered ghosts, or had true ghost stories to tell.
I felt some of that same uneasiness before speaking to The Skeptics, but my talk with the MENSA group made me a little less apprehensive. But The Skeptics earned their name. With challenging questions leveled at me throughout the presentation, it took me an hour and a half to reach an endpoint in my talk, which normally runs about forty minutes. In fact, I didn’t even finish my talk in its entirety but edited it for the sake of time.
I didn’t mind challenging questions—that’s part of the give and take I’ve become accustomed to in such talks. But what I did mind was the close-mindedness of people that consider themselves rational and scientific thinkers.
This is the great divide in paranormal inquiry. On one hand are the believers, on the other, the skeptics, with a whole lot of us stuck in the middle. Honest and open paranormal research is hindered by both extremes. The believers are often too quick to ascribe any unexplainable sounds, sights, or events to a ghostly presence without a thorough investigation into other possible causes. The skeptics immediately dismiss a ghostly claim even if they cannot find alternative explanations for the phenomena (not that a lack of such explanations automatically means they must be ghostly).
What would be of great benefit to paranormal research would be if some of the skeptics—especially those that are scientists—took a truly scientific approach to the paranormal. That is, if they decided it was a field worthy of serious inquiry. Scientists are not as intellectually open or curious as they would sometimes like us to believe. I remember one of the men at The Skeptics talk said that ghosts do not exist because ghostly phenomena cannot be reproduced at will in controlled situations. I asked him how he knew that they could not be reproduced. Suppose the phenomena in question was reproducible, I asked, but repeated only with long intervals of time in between, perhaps years. Would that not fulfill his scientific requirements?
But it is difficult to get a scientist to even consider studying paranormal events. The paranormal is “nonsense,” dismissed out of hand. But think of all the other “nonsense” that eventually proved to be true: earth as a round planet rather than a flat one; an earth that orbited the sun rather than the other way around; the ability of man to fly; voices and music conducted through the air over long distances; the possibility of man walking on the moon; cavemen riding dinosaurs—okay, sorry, delete that last one!
If scientists and the skeptics would come to assist in researching the paranormal instead of stubbornly digging in their heels in protest, we might all come to discover the answers to some of the most important questions ever asked.
Any bets on whether that will ever happen?