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Skeptics - Our Board of the Month!


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#1 Jeff Belanger

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 09:17 AM

Dear Ghostvillagers,

Let’s talk about skeptics. Skeptics and skepticism are a vital part of the paranormal discussion. No, this isn’t some bash-fest. That doesn’t help any cause. I’m talking about being skeptical. We should all be skeptical when it comes to extraordinary claims, but we must differentiate skepticism from our own belief system. Let’s check out the Dictionary.com definition of “Skeptic”:

Skep-tic (noun)
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skeptic?s=t
1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion...
4. (initial capital letter) Philosophy
a. a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible.
b. any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.

Let’s work backward, starting with number 4. The philosophical movement whereby a Skeptic (capital “S”) believes knowledge of things is impossible. That doesn’t sound like many of the Skeptics we’ve seen and heard on radio and television programs, does it? Many of these folks are devout atheists who believe there are facts and fiction. Black and white.

Number 3. Related only if you consider the paranormal a belief system. Of course you can make many arguments that the paranormal is a belief system -- and you can make the same argument for skepticism. Then we get into the battle of beliefs. My religion is right and yours is wrong. That’s difficult because then there is no discussion. Neither side even wants to see the other’s point of view.

We’re going to skip number 2 because it doesn’t relate as much to this topic. But number 1… we save the best for last. “Question the validity or authenticity of something said to be a fact.” That’s me, man. For sure. You tell me you saw a ghost, and I will have questions. I will want to know more. Some people have told me of their experiences and my gut (and experience) made me think they were either lying or delusional. However many others have told me of their brush with the paranormal, and I believed that they believed what they saw, heard, or felt. Having had my own unexplained experiences, I know these events are in the realm of possibility.

I’ve had the opportunity to debate people who title themselves “Skeptic” in radio and print interviews, and in person at conferences and events. The single most frustrating part of this debate usually comes down to this one factor: I tell of a personal experience where myself and three others witnessed a “ghost” walk out of a room, look at us, then disappear back into the same room. All four of us knew we were alone in this wing of the building, all four of us saw it, and all four of use raced the 15 feet to the room where we saw this thing to verify someone (living) hadn’t snuck in. But alas, no one was there. I use the term “ghost” because we have no other explanation. I’ve had “Skeptics” tell me we experienced a mass hallucination. That we were mistaken in low light. You name it. What’s infuriating is that this person who calls himself science-minded is judging not only the ability of my senses, but my personal experience. This Skeptic wasn’t there at the time. So the Skeptic is speaking from the point of view of a belief system and I’m speaking from the point of view of a personal observation. And what is science but observable results? Who really is the Skeptic here?

Exploring the paranormal isn’t some kind of battle. We shouldn’t be expected to stand firmly in one believer/skeptic camp or the other. There’s too much about the world and universe around us that we don’t understand to take an immovable position. But the exploration itself is the joy. Excellent points are made on both sides of this debate, so this month we’re going to focus on the skeptics.

Supernaturally yours,


Jeff Belanger
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#2 CaveRat2

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 10:37 AM

We cannot disregard 5 and 6 either. While these may not be skeptics, they do fall into the area of skepticism carried to extreme. They actually defeat the purpose of true skepticism though. By claiming nothing can be understood they essentially destroy the foundation of common sense and as such have no basis in fact.That extreme is no better than the absolute believer who basis his impressions on feelings only, disregarding what logic or observation dictates.

I would propose that we CAN fully understand some things. It is from these areas that we can build theories and conjecture. The true skeptic follows this protocol. He remains open to new ideas but not to the extent of disregarding the known quantities in the equation. Even when it comes to the paranormal and doing research into it there are certain absolutes that we can accept. For instance, we do know what limitations are regarding the equipment we use. Those who designed the equipment set those limits. When we exceed those parameters we know for a fact that results obtained cannot be relied upon. Thus boundaries are set that we must work within.

Of course we may obtain results that fall outside our understanding while we work within those limitations. THAT is the true area where a skeptic remains open minded. He must be willing to accept evidence obtained and be willing to adjust his thoughts when it remains inside those regions. But step outside, where known parameters can cause false positives, then all results also become questionable at best. Those are the times when even a true skeptic needs to become more closed minded and require that the known limitations be expanded before venturing into research in those areas.
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#3 skiwall

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 11:34 AM

My wife and I have been doing investigations for about a year now and I have to echo Jeff's comments about personal experience. While we have had our share of those experiences (being touched, chills in 90 degree heat, tons of evps, orbs, etc) one recent experience really shook us.

We are both teachers and a student that we both had passed away 2 years ago from a heroin overdose. We were at a friends house who is a part of our group and we were conducting a spirit box session in her infant son's bedroom. (They have a lot of activity in that room. We think it's her grandmother) During the session, my name was said repeatedly (4 times) in an intelligent way and when we listened to the digital recorder shortly after the session, we caught the voice of the student, John, through the spirit box. I know some people discount the spirit box as being random voices from the radio stations coming through, but this was very different.

This was John's actual voice. As if he were sitting right next to us. He said "'s up?" and said my name, Michael several times. He even told us how he died, "drugs." I don't know how to explain this at all. He knew all three of us that were there and he had a very messed up home life with a father who was never there. I had been thinking about him since it was the end of school (he passed away July 4) and I even said this during the session. It was an experience that truly made me think about our connections to this world and the spirit world and how sometimes, they intersect.

Just saw this thread and wanted to give some input. Thanks!

Michael
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#4 PhantomGlider

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:12 AM

I went for many years never having to consider skeptic's views. In the mid 2000s I worked as writer director of a paranormal TV series. 52 episodes which ended up being 48 fairly fresh perspectives on particular aspects of paranormal phenomena. There was also a 90 minute special pilot. I engaged 15 academic researchers to work on gathering new research on each of the subjects and certain objectives like "Look for proof of life beyond clinical death". Many of these researchers were a part of the McLuhan Foundation at UofT and one of the first questions from them was "How do you want the bias?". I said I wanted unbiased but that I viewed skepticism as a bias. Their response was laughter and then one of them went on at great length about how so called "balanced" programming was considerably biased. They used Discovery Channel as an example and pointed out how considerably they censored anything that was not biased towards skepticism. It brought on a lengthy discussion about how disgracefully the paid de-bunkers behave and how corrupt they can be whether hired for a Discover Channel style "balanced opinion". Also those de-bunkers working for corporations who are paid handsomely to go in and assess University based discoveries... they replicate the findings with certain essential missing elements and then pronounce them bogus, The researchers who published their findings are discredited and meanwhile the paperwork is passed on to the corporation who later rediscovers it and patents it in their name. There was also the case of the famous online debunking organization that opened up in the 90's which I think was PSYCOPS, They announced that they were going to debunk supernatural findings with proper science and presold the first foray which was going to be statistical proof that Astrology was bunkum. A lot of scientists joined their club and were eager to see the first results. After they missed their deadline they announced that their findings didn't fit their goals and that they would re-do their statistical analysis with different focus to prove their theory right. Half their membership of academics and scientists left the club once they realized the process being employed to debunk was corrupt and unscientific.

In the process of the series I had many discussions with scientists who felt the debunkers are as much at odds with the scientific paradigm as religionists. Some of them suggested we do an open panel discussion with the debunkers. I thought it was a great idea and not one of them was prepared to come on the show and face un-paid Professors and Doctors from several Universities who wanted to expose the truth.

I sought, throughout the series to find logic, truth and reason within the paranormal phenomena that we investigated. We would for every subject investigate up to date research and always interviewed researchers in the field, scientists or academics who were familiar with the subject in some way, medical doctors if appropriate, eye-witnesses and participants in the field. ALL UNPAID. All footage of events was checked for tampering... it's very easy to tell if CGI has been employed by a simple examination of the footage. No single unsubstantiated witness were used unless they were police officers or trained observers.

Now all that said I can say thet I believe there is probably no such thing as an unbiased opinion. I'm married to a philosopher and we sometimes debate for fun. She started out on Beyond as a skeptic and ended up an "impossible to explain-ist". Certain phenomena that she saw with her own eyes (caught on camera in front of her) rocked her world and shifted her belief system to some degree.

During the research days I decided, in the end, to try to follow a truthful path. I drew a line between believers and skeptics. Those either side of the line being reasonably in pursuit of the truth. Further out from the line on the skeptic side one finds the corrupt debunkers, trolls and flame-baiters. Further out from the line on the believer's side one would find the crackpots and those who believe in anything.

For me many of the most interesting and plausible explanations come from the scientists who straddle the line. Lyall Watson (Supernature), Desmond Morris (Naked Ape), Dr. David Suzuki, Dr. Barry Taft, Dr. Deepak Chopra and most of the people on "What the Bleep". We also interviewed some of those who we developed a deep respect for. People like Dr. Ivoil Koutsarov (Hard Matter Physicist) who has been measuring the effects of low level energy emitted from Chi Masters like Dr. Darwin Teng on the growth of superconductors. Dr. Colin Ross the Psychiatrist who has uncovered thousands of CIA documents surrounding their spectacular findings and sometimes highly immoral and unethical experiments effecting in some cases large areas of the population. Dr. Norman Shealy, a member of the FDA who had been conducting experiments on forms of energy that survive clinical death such as Somatites. Prof. Dr. Martin Janta the mathematician that has researched and supported elements of psychic research like Cross-correspondences and determined them to be conclusive and scientifically sound proof of some paranormal events. Psychologist and Para-Psychologist Prof. Buddy Wynne and the list goes on.

Taking that approach to the series... one that I feel is as open a mind as one can have in this world allowed us to consider and research things in an honest way and what we came up with was so exciting. Within about three months of working on that series I couldn't help but come to the firm opinion that there is too much proof of life beyond death to refute it. This is not to say that I would want to impose that understand of our world on anyone else but I say this as a testament that the truth really is out there if you are prepared to put prejudice aside when you go looking for it.
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