Skepticism

AI: evidence

While the rest of you were pub crawling and having sex last night, I was interviewed for The Paranormal View’s Skeptic Tank.

During the course of the chat, three shithouse examples of electronic voice phenomena were played, as “evidence” of an afterlife.

What kinds of “evidence” for the paranormal have you been presented with?

What counter-arguments have you made?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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26 Comments

  1. Vague “There’s more between heaven and earth” nonsense, and personal anecdotes. Not much point in arguing against that.

    I just mention that all well designed experiments into the paranormal give null results, and that being a psychic could earn you $1 million, or, more interesting I think, Tim Minchin’s piano, leg and wife.

    Oh, also “I’m entitled to my opinion”. Gah!

  2. Mostly personal anecdotes. Some of them really stupid, like –
    “I left my house for a day, and when I came home my bedroom was full of dead bees! It must have been a sign!” that one took two minutes on google to explain.

    Also, my mom seems to think that “The Fourth Kind” was evidence of alien abduction. Worst part is she didn’t even believe in aliens until she saw that movie. I’m so glad I take after my dad.

  3. 1. “I went to a psychic and the very first thing he said to me was ‘appleton’ and I had a grandmother who was born on Appleton Street.”

    2. “Well then why have I met celebrities?” I pointed out that she lives in California.

  4. I was having a discussion with someone I didn’t know was a paranormal believer, and I forget how we got on the topic, but she insisted ghosts must be real. I asked her how she knew and she said that she has had too many experiences to not believe.
    When I asked for an example she told me a story about how when coming back from her grandmother’s funeral, a large wooden bench was swinging in front of her house.
    Clearly it was her grandmother, she said to me. I asked if there was a wind and she insisted there wasn’t. After that I kindly explained occums’ razor. Needless to say, I was not convinced by her evidence.

  5. I”m Brazilian and I have a, let’s say, open-minded friend who always uses Chico Xavier as evidence for the existence of spirits of some sort, the afterlife, reencarnation … Chico Xavier has many followers in Brazil, is very respected, so calling him a fraud doesn’t really help; I usually give him that Chico Xavier might have been a good person, maybe he actually believed on what he said.

    And his “work” isn’t really evidence of anything.

  6. Hey, I didn’t go to a pub!

    My wife insist that as a little girl she got under a malicious magic spell. Her description of things match almost word-by-word a psychological condition, but she won’t change her mind.

    Other people insist that “god” is where our knowledge or understanding stops – I say that must be a very malleable god!

    In short, I try to explain to people that science or the scientific method is ready to say “I don’t know”, while the credulous rather make up zany and disconnected explanations without any physical or reasonable evidence.

  7. Personal anecdotes or the tried and untrue “How do you know it’s NOT ghosts?”

    I get the same thing about UFO’s: “I can’t think of anything else it could be, so it’s aliens.” Not a direct quote there, just the gist of it.

    My response is always “I don’t know what it is, and that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you do know what it is, then explain how you know. If you don’t, please just say that and stop acting like you know.”

    It doesn’t convince anyone already on the other side of the fence, but it usually keeps them from bothering me any further.

  8. One day I walked into my high school dorm room with a friend. The overhead light was on, so I switched it off and turned on a lamp instead. About ten minutes later, while we were talking, the overhead light suddenly came back on. Startled the hell out of us.

    I spent the rest of the year experimenting with the light switch in such a way that it would do that again, but to some of my friends this was proof positive that my room was “haunted.” And although I was then and still am sure it just had something to do with the switch, since I was never able to reproduce it, I wasn’t able to convince them otherwise.

    But the upside was some highly entertaining Ouija board sessions with those freaked-out friends. :D

  9. @ZenMonkey: You stayed at a dorm in high school? What kind of school did you go to?

    @Sydust:
    I’ve gotten that argument before, the “Too many experiences” one. I had no good argument against it, largely because I tend to be slow on the uptake sometimes, although I am getting better, and I wasn’t exactly expecting the argument. I’ve gotta work on that.

  10. I once made an offhand remark about aligning chakras, and one of the people I was chatting with said “Oh, I can do that.”
    “Out of curiosity,” I said, “how do you know when a chakra is aligned?”
    “I can feel it. With my hands. It’s like it just clicks into place. Would you like me to do yours?”
    “Er. No thank you.”
    I have to admit, I left it at that. It was at a nice party and I was having too good a time to get in an argument right then. It was a still a little weird that she basically offered to grope me and tell me when I “felt” right.

  11. @swordsbane: It is simply because it feels like getting your soul ripped out and crushed in front of you. There is so far only one person who I thought I felt comfortable about constructively discussing her “visions” with, on top of the Atlantis nonsense. This person wound up being one of those crazy girls your mother tries to warn you about, not to mention a complete bully.

  12. I can’t recall having been presented with any. I have, however, experienced first hand something that I could easily see someone using as evidence for the paranormal. I didn’t see it as being evidence for the paranormal and still don’t. I don’t know what the rational explanation is but I know that this is merely because I don’t have all the facts.

    This was what happened: A friend and I had been to a third friend’s house where we’d watched Twin Peaks and eaten donuts and drank “Damn good coffee”. Afterwards we cycled home together (we lived close to each other) and as we moved from one street onto a small square, it suddenly got dark – the lights on both our bikes went out at the same time along with the streetlights. So we said to each other “That was weird” and started fiddling with our headlights to get the light back on. And a few seconds later, all the lights came back on simultaneously: headlights, taillights and streetlights.
    I’ve no idea what could have caused this (beyond possibly an electromagnetic pulse which seems pretty unlikely) but this doesn’t lead me to conclude that fairies or aliens did it – just that I don’t have all the facts.

  13. @swordsbane: The personal stories are the hardest to deal with. Telling someone that what they saw might not be what they have already decided it is is….. difficult, especially if it is a friend of yours.

    I agree, and that’s why I usually don’t bother. I remember a very thoughtful and intelligent person once telling me an incredibly detailed story of his dead grandmother appearing to him, and I just nodded and listened and didn’t say what I was thinking, which based on his description was “That was clearly a dream of some kind.”

    This can often fall into the category of harmless superstitions I am loath to debunk. If it provides someone some comfort and they’re not out either bilking people or getting bilked as a result, I don’t see why go all Snopes on them.

    The word “bilk” has lost all meaning.

  14. Just because you are recording a pod-cast doesn’t mean you couldn’t also go on a pub crawl and have sex. Can you imagine how many hits that pod-cast would have gotten? It would have been huge!

    Lots of personal stories or second and third hand stories. Counter arguements have proven useless. Whenever I try to make a counter arguement or ask for evidence I am usually met with a response along the lines of “I don’t care what the evidence says I believe it.” or “You think you are so smart but you don’t know everything.”

  15. I have my own anecdotes, and some of the arguments are with myself. Mostly when other people give me some kind of story, I ask them what it could have been if not a ghost. Something like, “Wow that’s really unusual, I wonder how that happened, maybe a change in pressure or something?”

    I try to steer clear of the “I wonder what caused it,” because that always leads to a dead end (so to speak) of ghosts.

    People tell me all the time that they believe in psychics because of this one lady at a Ren Fair/theme restaurant/holistic fair (they were just there to get some herb tea, mind you) and she told them “things about themselves that no one could have known.”

    I think people don’t realize how potent cold reading techniques are and how susceptible the human mind is to trickery.

  16. I personally haven’t been presented with evidence.
    All that I have been exposed to is what appears on Ghost Hunters (and it’s spinoffs), Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Lab, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Haunted History, and the docu-drama series A Haunting.
    I’m exposed to these shows because my family has a “thing” for paranormal stuff. And it disturbs me.
    Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to be able to counter the claims and “evidence” shown in these shows.
    So I just ignore the shows and often leave the room.

  17. @Grand Lunar: “Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to be able to counter the claims and “evidence” shown in these shows.”

    I do know enough, and the sad part is that it doesn’t seem to matter.

    I often tell people: “It doesn’t matter whether there are actually aliens or ghosts or psychic phenomena. What matters is how you go about investigating.”

    Even assuming that there are ghosts out there, I haven’t seen anything that makes me think any of these so-called paranormal investigators are competent or intelligent enough to prove it.

  18. Let’s see. While in bed I’ve seen aliens, ghosts demons and other beasties. Does that count?

    Oh and the explanation is pretty simple: I get sleep paralysis. Fraking scary when it happens but completely explainable.

    Most of the evidence I get from people is pointers to poorly done studies for faith healing or the like. Or, even more commonly, assertions about studies without any references that the individuals have almost certainly either never read, heard from a friend, or made up themselves.

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