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The Skeptic That Saw A Ghost(s)


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#1 Caniswalensis

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 07:13 PM

Hi All,

Well, here is my confession: I, a curmudgeonly yet well-loved skeptic, once saw a ghost with my own eyes! Actually, it was a group of 5-6 full body apparitions! I was initially sure that I had a real paranormal experience, even though I had been a skeptic for several years at the time of my experience.

I have been considering posting about this for awhile now anyway. So get ready for an excruciatingly long post about my fascinating personal life, you lucky people!

Where to start is the problem. I suppose I should begin with the factual details of the day as I recall them.

It was about nine years ago. I was in central Illinois, USA, attending an event held by the SCA. The SCA is a medieval history organization that you can read about here:
http://www.sca.org/

The event was held in a state run campground that was simply beautiful. It had lots of wooded trails and rocky bluffs. In fact, it really stands out in my mind because they had these great three-sided cabins that were set very high into the sides of these bluffs. They had long winding wooden staircases that led up to them. I am talking like 75 to 100 stairs up! It was a really cool place.

It was early September, a little warm for that time of year, and the weather was partly cloudy with intermittent sprinkles of rain and misting from the late afternoon on into the night.

We had a full day of martial arts & other activities, including a medieval feast in the late evening. After the meal, I and some other people started out for the campsite of a group that was hosting a large party. I will state for the record here that I had yet to consume any alcohol at this point in the evening. :- )

We were walking along a wooded path that was sparsely lit by tiki torches. It was full on night by this time. It was humid from the rain and unseasonable warm; almost misty, but not quite. All the tiki torches had a halo around them from the moisture in the air.

Our group came to a clearing of sorts. It was a convergence of several paths like the one we were on, and it was lit fairly well by about a half dozen of the tiki torches. As we entered this area, I became aware of a small group of people standing to one side of the clearing. I was not looking directly at them, but had a strong image of them and complete surety that there were five or six regular folk standing there. I then glanced over and waved at them, noticing nothing amiss. It was at that time I was obliged to look back down to pick my way more carefully between some muddy patches. A few more steps and I looked back up at them, with the intention of asking them if they were going to the party.

Here is where it gets interesting. I was confused to find that their appearance had changed drastically. I could still see them, but they seemed distorted and almost transparent or faded. The harder that I tried to seem them, the less I actually could see them. I remember fixing on the spot where one of the maleís faces should have been, there was no longer a face to be seen there. I switched my gaze to the sleeve of another figureís tunic, but again, nothing but the background of trees, lit by the flickering light of the torches. This pattern continued and the effect was very much as though I was taking the figures apart with my eyes. They continued to fade and disappear as my eyes darted about looking for something of what I had seen before. My feelings were of confusion, and frustration, and yes, a little bit of panic. Although, not a fearful kind of panic, but more like the kind of panic you feel when you start to drop something, and begin batting it around, trying to get a grip on it. That really is an apt description. It was as though I was desperately trying to catch a grip on the figures as they slipped from my field of vision. Soon, I had lost the overall impression that there were any figures there at all. I was left standing and staring at an ordinary patch of ground, backed by ordinary trees and undergrowth. I was dumbfounded. There had been people there, real and solid looking, only moments before. The whole episode took much less time then it does to read this. Probably about 4 to 5 seconds.

I then looked to my companions. They had stopped a little ahead of me to discuss the correct path to the party. It was clear they had not experienced what I just had. My mind was racing and I actually felt a little dizzy from the overwhelming implications of it all. I approached one of them, a fellow that I had only just met as we were setting out to the party. He was a friend of a friend. I asked him if he had just seen some people standing to the side of the clearing. He replied ďOh, donít mind them, theyíre just dead.Ē That struck me rather funny, because he was so casual about it. I am not able to say for sure if this thought had occurred to me yet. I know that I was shocked by what I had seen, but I can not honestly say when the thought of ghosts came into my mind. I think that I may have had that in the back of my mind, but this exchange definitely put it right there on the table for me. I was so confused and bewildered that I do not think that it even seemed odd to me that this guy was telling me I had seen some dead people.

I continued to ponder what I had seen on into the night. I was in a mental turmoil the whole time, and found myself barely able to enjoy the party at all.

I realized that the landscape had just changed. I had just had a personal experience. In fact, I had achieved the gold standard of personal experiences. I had seen a group of head-to-toe full body apparitions! Was there any way it could have been better? Oh yeah, someone else had seen it too! People wait their whole lives for something like that to happen and still donít get to see it. I was, to be honest, elated! I felt as though everything that I had always wanted to believe in was true!

After a couple hours of walking around on cloud nine, I began to think about things a little harder. I suppose that I had a nagging doubt about a couple things. Something was bothering me. Call it my skeptical thinking holding me back, but I wanted to be as sure as I possibly could about things.

I knew that I saw something, but what did I really see? Could it have been an illusion? Unless I was willing to say that I was not susceptible to the same things that every other human on the planet is, I had to at least acknowledge the possibility that I was mistaken. That somehow, my mind, and senses had conspired with circumstances to trick me. I accepted the unpleasant truth of that, with all its implications, but set out to prove that my experience was real; as real as it had felt to me.

I started with my fellow witness. I had seen him doing tarot readings earlier, and this gave me the idea that he might know a thing or two about the paranormal. I went and made his acquaintance and got him to do a reading on me. To be honest, I donít remember much about it, except that it did not have anything to do with the topic that was burning a hole in my skull. After that I was able to ask him a couple things while he took a break. He reaffirmed that he had seen the figure in the clearing, and that they were ghosts. He answered a few other questions about them, and to my great sadness, described them much differently than the figures I had seen. Different clothes, different number of people, different everything practically. It was clear that we had not shared an objective experience. As the night wore on, I observed this fellow continue to entertain with readings, and unimpressive displays of ďweather control.Ē Much of what he said was clearly designed to impress, and I felt like perhaps his casual reply to me on the path was of the same nature. I gave up on using him to validate my experience.

Of course, just because he might be a humbug, that does not mean I did not have a genuine paranormal experience; far from it, in fact. I wrestled with what I had seen for much of the night. Long after the camp was asleep, I walked those lonely wooded paths with only the moonlight to see by. The torches had all burnt out. I spoke out loud and I spoke with my mind, imploring the figures to return and confirm there existence to me. The ghosts had all gone home. I was alone with the imponderable, the unsolvable. I could not objectively prove I had or had not seen a ghost. I followed the example of the ghosts, and went off to bed.

In the clear light of morning I once more mulled over what little evidence I had as I packed.

In the plus column, I had the evidence of my own senses, but little else. Still, I had never been diagnosed with any mental disorders, I am a little nearsighted, but my glasses correct to better than 20/20, and I was not prone to hallucinations. Why shouldnít I believe what I see?

On the minus side, I knew even then, that peopleís eyes do play tricks on them, although this was such an elaborate trick, that it seemed hard to believe. But, I had to acknowledge that vision & memory can be very subjective things. If I see a car speeding at me, there is no reason to doubt it. Cars are very real and can be observed on any city street at any time of the day. Unlike ghosts or disappearing people, which can not be observed at will. It seems more risky to trust your senses when dealing with the extraordinary.

Finally, I admitted that I probably would never know for sure one way or the other. I would just have to make a subjective judgment about what I would believe.

Being somewhat less studied then I am now, I was more willing to accept my subjective experience as real, as long as there was no strong evidence against it. I resolved that I had experienced a real paranormal event, maybe just because I wanted to believe that. It was the more attractive of the two choices. Others could scoff, but I had seen 5 or 6 people slowly vanish in front of my eyes. I had seen that happen! It seemed more likely to be real than illusion to me, so why not believe it? I had chose a course, and the matter was settled.

A little off topic - Have you ever had this happen to you: You are trying to remember something, like a personís name, and you just canít recall it. Then, as soon as you give up and start thinking about something else, BAM! It comes to you?

That is what happened to me on the drive home from that event. I was becoming increasingly comfortable with my reclaimed status as a believer, and was mulling over various things like: how cool it was to have seen some ghosts, what my friends might say about it, what other paranormal stuff might be true, did I miss my turn!?, how much fun the event had been, where should I stop to eatÖÖ.BAM! It came to me; one small detail that tipped the scales in a big way. A detail that made it so overwhelmingly unlikely that what I had seen was real; I had no choice but to accept that I had experienced some kind of perceptual illusion. I was stunned and saddened. It was like a punch in the gut. I had not really seen a group of full body apparitions. I had not seen anything, except the trees and the dark and the torchlight. I had stood on that dark path and begged out loud for something that was not real to show itself to me. Iím still a little embarrassed about that. At least it confirms my status as an open-minded skeptic.

I suppose that it was the dark, and the misty night, and the flickering torchlight that fooled me. A branch here, a dark space there, some condensation on my glasses, and some expectation in my mind of what I should be seeing. All these things combined to create a vivid illusion, but one that could not stand up to direct scrutiny. Any more than a quick glance and it was shattered like glass.

Looking back, I marvel at what a near miss I had. Were it not for that one detail, I would have really believed this was paranormal. I would have believed in something false. I would have believed it because I had seen it, experienced it, wanted to believe it. I am sure that the longer I had held that belief, the harder it would have been to give up. I may have been making this post from a different perspective today, if I had not remembered that small detail.

What was that detail? Maybe you know it already. Itís contained in this account, plain as day for any to read. For all I know, it is pitifully obvious to you all, in the cold light of the internet. At the time, I almost missed it, though. I guess that I was just too close.

Here is the detail: However the illusion was formed, I know it was an illusion rather than a group of paranormal apparitions, because they were wearing medieval clothing.

Amazingly, the significance of that did not dawn on me until the trip home. I mentioned seeing the tunic, and my impression was that every member of the group was decked out in various tunics, cotehardies, cloaks & boots. These garments have a significantly different appearance than modern clothes, or even clothing that you would see in the U.S. for the last couple hundred years. Being a general all around history buff, I am pretty familiar with our nationís history, and the sort of clothing people wore. There is not much there that looks like medieval clothing. I am sure that I was not mistaken about the period.

Why would a group of ghosts in an Illinois campground be wearing medieval clothing? They simply would not be. It makes no sense at all. Any scenario that can be imagined to explain this would almost certainly be more convoluted then could be accepted. The answer must be that I saw an illusion that was processed and interpreted by my brain. Whether it was caused by the mist, an after-image, the dark, the trees, or real people that somehow left quickly, it is clear that when I looked at them, I was seeing what I expected to see.

So there is the answer. Well, my answer, at least. The story of how someone can see a amazing group of apparitions and still come out of it not believing it was paranormal. Some of you may disagree with my conclusion, and that is fine. I do not begrudge you your opinions. Whatever you think of my experience, I hope that you enjoy reading about it.

As always, this post is all about my experience, and not the experiences of others. It is not intended to be a commentary on believers in general. I donít begrudge anyone their beliefs, and I donít wish to question their experiences.

Thanks for reading, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#2 Laurie Ann

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:15 PM

~Well, I'm considered one of the 'lucky people' because usually long posts like this one loses my interest quickly and I just don't reply. But yours kept my attention and I have to admit that you're one heck of a writer....I just loved the way you kept it rolling, the whole experience. Although I'm a believer, I loved the way you at first got all excited about the possibility that you may have seen full-bodied apparitions...then you talked yourself out of it by just a few mere facts. I do that to myself now when strange things happen in my home, so I just have to say thank you for sharing your story...that was nice. :clap: :)

P.S: Now just for the sake of well....me the believer, are you sure that there isn't a background info on this place that the recreated midevil (sp?) happened on? You know...how they recreate Gettysburg on 'that' particular land. Are you sure that this land wasn't used back then and maybe, just maybe you may have seen the apparitions? Just wondering.
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#3 Redhead

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 11:48 PM

If you had read Canis's full post you would have read that he asked himself the very same question and came to the conclusion that he was mistaken. The post was long, but it was well written and not boring enough to skip any part of it.

Thanks Canis for showing just how easily a tired mind/body can play tricks on us. All too often we believe something because we want it to be so, forgetting that there are oftimes logical explanations. Has anyone else had a similar experience - seeing/hearing something that you cannot explain until, at some point the obvious is right there?
"Never wrestle with a pig. All you get is dirty and the pig has all the fun." ~ Anon.

#4 Vampchick21

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 08:21 AM

Has anyone else had a similar experience - seeing/hearing something that you cannot explain until, at some point the obvious is right there?


Actually, I do. And it's a rather funny story. :) At least to me.

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room reading when I became aware of the faint sound of voices. Very faint, I knew there was a conversation happening, but I could not make out the actual words, nor guess at the gender or number of speakers in the conversation.

At first I thought it was outside, we live across the street from a very active Catholic Church, so I wondered if they were having yet another event. Got up, looked out the front window and nothing. Just a few guys in front of the tavern down the street (it's a city, tavern and church are often neighbours), and they were just sitting there watching the world go by. I looked up the other way, perhaps the neighbours' kids were out.....nope. Empty street.

I started walking through the house, knowing that I can hear a faint conversation and it's driving me out of my mind! Where is it coming from? I *know* there is *no* paranormal activitiy in my house, despite it's age (about 100 years old), despite the area (the church has stood there since 1875 and I think the house is on former church property). The cats aren't acting like anything is weird, tv is off, the church is quiet, the street is quiet, the next door neighbours on both sides are not home........WHAT IS GOING ON????? Why am I hearing this faint conversation??????

That's when my husband starts laughing like there's no tomorrow.

See, he played a joke on me to see what I would do. He has the entertainment system set up so that the living room is surrounded by speakers, and had, while I was reading (I tend to shut out the world when I get my nose in a good book), tuned the stereo to a talk radio station and turned the volume down just enough that it would eventually penetrate my book enduced fog, but that I wouldn't be able to figure out easily where it was coming from.

He's lucky I love him....lol

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#5 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 09:50 AM

~Well, I'm considered one of the 'lucky people' because usually long posts like this one loses my interest quickly and I just don't reply. But yours kept my attention and I have to admit that you're one heck of a writer....I just loved the way you kept it rolling, the whole experience. Although I'm a believer, I loved the way you at first got all excited about the possibility that you may have seen full-bodied apparitions...then you talked yourself out of it by just a few mere facts. I do that to myself now when strange things happen in my home, so I just have to say thank you for sharing your story...that was nice. :clap: :)

P.S: Now just for the sake of well....me the believer, are you sure that there isn't a background info on this place that the recreated midevil (sp?) happened on? You know...how they recreate Gettysburg on 'that' particular land. Are you sure that this land wasn't used back then and maybe, just maybe you may have seen the apparitions? Just wondering.


Hi laurie Ann,

Thanks so much fo your nice compliments. I am very glad that you enjoyed my post.

As for the history, of the campground, I have no real idea of it. Your question is a fair one, but I feel sure that there woud have been no Europeans there during the middle ages.

Regards, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#6 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 09:58 AM

Has anyone else had a similar experience - seeing/hearing something that you cannot explain until, at some point the obvious is right there?


Actually, I do. And it's a rather funny story. :) At least to me.

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room reading when I became aware of the faint sound of voices. Very faint, I knew there was a conversation happening, but I could not make out the actual words, nor guess at the gender or number of speakers in the conversation.

At first I thought it was outside, we live across the street from a very active Catholic Church, so I wondered if they were having yet another event. Got up, looked out the front window and nothing. Just a few guys in front of the tavern down the street (it's a city, tavern and church are often neighbours), and they were just sitting there watching the world go by. I looked up the other way, perhaps the neighbours' kids were out.....nope. Empty street.

I started walking through the house, knowing that I can hear a faint conversation and it's driving me out of my mind! Where is it coming from? I *know* there is *no* paranormal activitiy in my house, despite it's age (about 100 years old), despite the area (the church has stood there since 1875 and I think the house is on former church property). The cats aren't acting like anything is weird, tv is off, the church is quiet, the street is quiet, the next door neighbours on both sides are not home........WHAT IS GOING ON????? Why am I hearing this faint conversation??????

That's when my husband starts laughing like there's no tomorrow.

See, he played a joke on me to see what I would do. He has the entertainment system set up so that the living room is surrounded by speakers, and had, while I was reading (I tend to shut out the world when I get my nose in a good book), tuned the stereo to a talk radio station and turned the volume down just enough that it would eventually penetrate my book enduced fog, but that I wouldn't be able to figure out easily where it was coming from.

He's lucky I love him....lol


That is an AWSOME practical joke!! It' like something out of "Gaslight." lol!

Please give your husband my compliments.

Regards, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#7 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:01 AM

The post was long, but it was well written and not boring enough to skip any part of it.

Thanks Canis for showing just how easily a tired mind/body can play tricks on us. All too often we believe something because we want it to be so, forgetting that there are oftimes logical explanations.


Thank you for the kind words. I am glad that you liked it.

regards, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#8 Vampchick21

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:02 AM

That is an AWSOME practical joke!! It' like something out of "Gaslight." lol!

Please give your husband my compliments.

Regards, Canis


He can be a wicked little boy at times.....lol. He's also been known to sneak up on me when I'm watching my "Ghosty Shows" and make me jump out of my skin. One of the reasons I stopped watching 'Most Haunted' (besides the obvious reasons one would stop watching) is the simple fact that he'd lay in wait until Yvette started getting screamy and then pounce.

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#9 Redhead

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:28 AM

I remembered something that happened almost 15 years ago. At that time we used to have a nice comfy sectional sofa. I had a habit of laying down on it in the corner, with my head propped up on some pillows to watch television. I used to work sort of a second shift in those days, and had Fridays off, so did a lot of my television viewing in the evenings. One fine summer day, the dogs were out and I had settled down to watch some news. I was wriggling around a bit to get comfy when the channel changed. I didn't have the remote in my hand and thought that was strange. The phone rang and I got up to answer it - the channel changed again. I came back, lay down again - the channel changed again! I sat up, looked around, and then it was like someone was channel surfing - going up and down the channels on the tv like mad. This had me very confused and starting to get concerned as to what was going on. My husband's children had always told me that they thought the house was a haunted based on things they experienced as small kids and now I was starting to think maybe it was. When I realised that I didn't see the remote, I started to hunt for it, all the while the channels changing like mad. When I got to the part of the sofa where the two parts of the sectional joined, I pulled the small pillows off - no remote. Finally I pulled apart the two sections and there the remote was. It had been under the pillows and when my elbow hit it just so the channel changed - when I got up, the pressure from my elbow was gone and it changed back. Somehow it got wedged between the metal frames and was stuck on the changer button. Needless to say I was pretty relieved that it was a rational explanation! I think I sat on the floor laughing at myself for a good five minutes too!
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#10 mrsspookypants

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 01:52 PM

I think it is safe to say that thread will not be returning. Upon cleaning it up, there was not much content left.

Now, back to the topic...any other posts not related to the topic of the post will be removed.....even if it's just to agree/disagree or especially to question why.

#11 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 02:38 PM

I may not be certain of your motives agreed, but I find it interesting that you identify the internal struggle and ultimate resolve you found in said "struggle".

Interesting? I don't know about that, unless you are implying it is interesting to see someone fooling themselves out of fear or something like that. I assure you that is not the case with me.

I wanted to believe, grew up believing. I then started to want to know more than just what paranormal things have happened. I wanted to know how they happen. The more I read, the more I realized that no one really knows. There was no real knowledge to be had. If I was to believe in this stuff, I would simply be putting my faith in the author of some book, or a guy on the TV, or some legend. My believe was like a house of cards, and science had just walked into the room and sneezed. :-)

I ignored my growing doubts for as long as I could, going through the motions and pretending that I still really believed. Eventually, I had to "give up the ghost" and admit to myself that no matter how much I wanted this stuff to be true, there was not sufficient evidence for me to believe it. There were other possible explanations that could explain the things that were going on.

My struggle was one for intellectual honesty, fought against my own wishful thinking. It was bloody, painful and entirely necessary. Although I am no longer a believer, I am the more fulfilled for having my personal integrity.

None of this is a comment on anyone else's belief but my own. I am not saying that believer's do not have personal integrity or anything like that. If someone else feels that they have good reason to be a believer, than I am happy for them. I envy them, in fact. They may have a personal experience that is beyond any reasonable doubt, so I don't really judge. Someday maybe I'll have one of those.


And I will never say (and never have) that I know for certain something IS paranormal, in this respect out POVs are not diametrically polarized.

B.T.



Common ground at last! Well, Kinda. :-)

*Grab's BT's hand and we skip through a field of wild flowers into the sunset*

Regards, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#12 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 02:41 PM

Thatís Occamís razor reasoning now isnít it?


Care to explain a bit more on what you actually mean by Occam's Razor reasoning? Just curious.


Here is some decent reading on the principle of logic known as "Occam's Razor."

I hope it is helpful.

Regards, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#13 Redhead

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 02:53 PM

Canis, you forgot to add the link so that others could read about Occan's Razor.


I expect that this is going to get back on the topic. This isn't a request. This topic will be closed if it goes off again.
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#14 Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 03:33 PM

Canis, you forgot to add the link so that others could read about Occan's Razor.


I expect that this is going to get back on the topic. This isn't a request. This topic will be closed if it goes off again.


OOPS! :clap:
It's been that kind of day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor

For clarification's sake, is it OK to discuss issues of logic or belief as they pertain to the topic? I only ask because I do not want to make more problem's for you.

Sincerely, Canis

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha


#15 Caniswalensis

Caniswalensis

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 04:06 PM

And my thread goes down in flames. :clap:

I want to say that I very much appreciate the nice posts and comments that people have contributed here.

I would humbly ask that what ever other actions they deem necessary, the staff simply remove any offending posts and allow discussion of my experience to continue.

I hope that other members in good standing would still be interested in posting here.

I understand if you wish to do otherwise.

Sincerely, Canis

Edited by Caniswalensis, 05 June 2009 - 04:07 PM.

"It is proper for you to doubt ... do not go upon report ... do not go upon tradition ... do not go upon hear-say." ~ Buddha





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