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Does alot of poor evidence = good evidence?


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#1 plindboe

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 08:22 AM

I've noticed that believers in the paranormal often tend to bring up a list of various events to support the notion that they have some paranormal presence in their house. These events on their own often seem to be rather mundane and totally unrelated, yet simply due to being "unexplainable" they are all grouped together and used to support an already established belief system, as if alot of ordinary events added up somehow must be evidence for something extraordinary.

With these cognitive biases you can take just about any belief system, and you will end up getting experiential evidence. The only requirement is a strong bias.
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#2 krcguns

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 09:58 AM

I agree, this is what happens. However, that being said, we all base our opinions and beliefs on what we have experienced in the past...for example;

I go out and buy a Ford Pick-up truck (just an example, not slamming Ford). It is a brand new truck but it is a true lemon. It spends more time in the dealer's garage than my own and I swear that Ford is the worst thing on the planet and I and anyone I know will NEVER buy a Ford as long as any of us live! Anyone who owns a Ford is developmentally disabled!

We all know this can happen to any make of vehicle. I have had lemons in just about all makes of vehicles at some point in my life. The expeience of the person that bought that pick-up is based solely on his experience. It is human nature to do this and we ALL do it at some time or another.

If a group gets a call from someone having this type of issue in their home, at that point we go by the evidence to make a determination. That is all we can do but the person with the experience must be the one to initiate the call.
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#3 BellaRose

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 01:46 PM

For me I suppose...Posted Image
It's ALL about HOW the evidence or data, as it were, is collected and/or gathered. Not just what is gathered or the story behind it. More often than not, whatever *it* may be is not paranormal in nature and has rather mundane origins.

#4 Seeker

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 05:47 PM

I know exactly what you mean. I saw a lot of it on a couple of public haunts. It makes me snicker. On the other side of that coin, sometimes its the sheer numbers of "odd" experiences that add up.
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#5 plindboe

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 01:10 PM

Thanks for the responses.

I agree, this is what happens. However, that being said, we all base our opinions and beliefs on what we have experienced in the past...for example;


Indeed. But I'm also talking bias due to belief systems. In the ghost belief system just about anything odd out there can be used in support of the belief. A window closing "without wind", a noise from seemingly "nowhere", a light turned on (even though a person remembers turning it off), anomalies on photos, unidentifiable voices on tape recordings, voices heard before going to sleep and countless other occurences.

The problem is that all these things are bound to happen, even if ghosts didn't exist. The ghost belief system would find its evidence no matter if ghosts existed or not, because it's supported by anything deemed unexplainable.

It requires a belief system to apply any of the above mentioned occurances to ghosts, because a person without this belief system would not think "some immaterial dead person is trying to communicate with me through electrical appliances" just because he hears a noise on a recording or sees a bright spot on a photo.

Peter :)
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#6 plindboe

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 01:19 PM

On the other side of that coin, sometimes its the sheer numbers of "odd" experiences that add up.


But why would lots of "odd" add up? That's the problem I have. We are all fallible creatures, we misunderstand, we forget, we misperceive. "Odd" is just everyday human experience.

Sure, the supernatural might possibly be true, but "odd" is bound to happen no matter if the supernatural exists or not. A belief system supported by "odd" is bound to be continously supported by evidence whether true or not.

Peter :)
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#7 Seeker

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 05:42 PM

It certainly depends on the experiences. If I hear banging, that coincides with the hot water being turned on, no matter how many times I hear it, its still my hot water pipes. If I hear a bang and see the cat running away it might be paranormal but its probably the cat.
If I hear a loud tapping in the kitchen when Ive forgotten my dinner in the toaster oven and its about to burn, then I hear it again coming from the basement when the washer hose breaks and the basement is starting to flood, then I hear it again when the baby manages to get his blanket wrapped around his neck... While each of these tappings can be called a coincidence, taken as a whole it makes one wonder. Is that what you meant with your origional post? I might have misunderstood. :clap:
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#8 plindboe

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:08 AM

It certainly depends on the experiences. If I hear banging, that coincides with the hot water being turned on, no matter how many times I hear it, its still my hot water pipes. If I hear a bang and see the cat running away it might be paranormal but its probably the cat.
If I hear a loud tapping in the kitchen when Ive forgotten my dinner in the toaster oven and its about to burn, then I hear it again coming from the basement when the washer hose breaks and the basement is starting to flood, then I hear it again when the baby manages to get his blanket wrapped around his neck... While each of these tappings can be called a coincidence, taken as a whole it makes one wonder.


Indeed, one wonders, but it's worthwhile to consider whether one might be deceiving oneself due to acceptance of a belief system where "odd" is seen as evidence. Bias tends to cause people to notice patterns where none exists. Focusing on hits and ignoring misses are a common psychological tendancy, and it might in part explain your example. Basically we tend to see what we expect to see, and the stronger the bias the less it takes for the beliefs to be reinforced.

But of course confirmation bias is not unique to paranormal belief systems, it can happen to us all. A good reason to be skeptical, even of ourselves.


Is that what you meant with your origional post? I might have misunderstood. :)


Don't worry about the OP, I think I might have gone a bit beyond it. :wow:
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#9 Vampchick21

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:11 AM

Ok, I have to ask.

Plindboe, what exactly do you consider to be 'good evidence'? Do you consider anything at all to be evidence, or do you automatically dismiss anything presented to you or do you consider the evidence and all data associated with it.

What exactly would you define as paranormal?

And just by and by....bias shows up on both sides of the debate. :)

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#10 plindboe

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 12:00 PM

Ok, I have to ask.

Plindboe, what exactly do you consider to be 'good evidence'? Do you consider anything at all to be evidence, or do you automatically dismiss anything presented to you or do you consider the evidence and all data associated with it.


Something that does not appear to have a mundane explanation and that can be independently verified and/or replicated I'd consider good evidence. And,yes, I would seriously take it into consideration if I saw some good evidence for something paranormal.


What exactly would you define as paranormal?


I guess something that is outside of our physical reality, but can still influence it. This is why I wouldn't consider alien visitation, Big Foot and Nessie to be paranormal.


And just by and by....bias shows up on both sides of the debate. ;)


True. :)

Edited by plindboe, 14 November 2007 - 12:02 PM.

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#11 Vampchick21

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 01:19 PM

Ok, I have to ask.

Plindboe, what exactly do you consider to be 'good evidence'? Do you consider anything at all to be evidence, or do you automatically dismiss anything presented to you or do you consider the evidence and all data associated with it.


Something that does not appear to have a mundane explanation and that can be independently verified and/or replicated I'd consider good evidence. And,yes, I would seriously take it into consideration if I saw some good evidence for something paranormal.


So, in other words, you would not consider the standard orb photo to be good evidence (totally understand that, I don't either). However, I have to point out that it's often very hard to go back to an area where you caught the first pieces of evidence and get the exact same thing again. You might get something different. You might get nothing. That's the hard part regarding paranormal investigation, and one I think that causes many to utterly dismiss it, unfairly. Because with the exception of the theory regarding a 'residual haunt', much of it stems from something that, by all appearances, has it's own thought process and agenda. Even poltergeist (which I personally agree with the theory that it's unconciously caused by a human agent rather than a spirit) activity doesn't always show up the same way over and over.

But in essence, you do not dismiss everything that would be presented to you, just that which can clearly be explained as something known and natural (i.e. dust particles, natural mist, light flares, etc, etc). And that you likely take personal experience with a grain of salt unless it happened to you and you cannot find a known, natural cause for it. (i.e., being clearly touched)

This is perfectly fair, and I think the way most people investigating the paranormal function. Of course there are those groups who use banging pipes as evidence of a demon infestation, but most dismiss those folks anyway.....lol.

What exactly would you define as paranormal?


I guess something that is outside of our physical reality, but can still influence it. This is why I wouldn't consider alien visitation, Big Foot and Nessie to be paranormal.


Agree with you there! The three examples you give, if they are actual real things, are not, in my mind, paranormal. They tend to get lumped in, but I class them separately. (I do have a bit of a liking for cryptzoology, but I don't consider it paranormal.)

And just by and by....bias shows up on both sides of the debate. ;)


True. :)


lol. Something we all have to be careful of.

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#12 plindboe

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:44 PM

So, in other words, you would not consider the standard orb photo to be good evidence (totally understand that, I don't either).


Indeed, an orb photo can never be considered proper evidence. It doesn't even fulfill the lowest standards of evidence, because there are always mundane explanations that can apply.


However, I have to point out that it's often very hard to go back to an area where you caught the first pieces of evidence and get the exact same thing again. You might get something different. You might get nothing. That's the hard part regarding paranormal investigation, and one I think that causes many to utterly dismiss it, unfairly.


I appreciate the ghost researchers' effort but I think they are going about it the wrong way entirely. There's no way the current research can yield results that will gain attention from the scientific community because there seem to be nothing scientific about this way of collecting data at all. Let's face it, photos, videos, tape recordings can never be accepted as evidence, because in each case there are more mundane explanations.


Because with the exception of the theory regarding a 'residual haunt', much of it stems from something that, by all appearances, has it's own thought process and agenda. Even poltergeist (which I personally agree with the theory that it's unconciously caused by a human agent rather than a spirit) activity doesn't always show up the same way over and over.


I don't think that evidence is lacking due to the nature of the paranormal, but rather that the nature of the paranormal have changed due to lack of evidence. What we are left with today after centuries of fruitless research are phenonema defined in a way that inherently excuses any lack of detection whatsoever, seems entirely impossible to verify by independent observers, they're immaterial, invisible and only show themselves whenever they want. This is what we're inevitably left with after countless failures, anything tangible at all seems to have gone out the window.
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#13 Vampchick21

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:48 PM

I appreciate the ghost researchers' effort but I think they are going about it the wrong way entirely. There's no way the current research can yield results that will gain attention from the scientific community because there seem to be nothing scientific about this way of collecting data at all. Let's face it, photos, videos, tape recordings can never be accepted as evidence, because in each case there are more mundane explanations.


Ok, what exactly, if you had the money, the time and access, would you do/use to collect evidence of the paranormal?

I don't think that evidence is lacking due to the nature of the paranormal, but rather that the nature of the paranormal have changed due to lack of evidence.


I'm not sure I understand this particular statement. Could you clarify?

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#14 Richard Kimmel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 04:08 PM

IMHO, I've been giving this topic some thought and believe that evidence should not be classified good, poor, better or best. You either have evidence or you have none. If we try to classify evidence into categories, everyone will then be arguing the fine-line between them. Next people will want to rate evidence on a scale of 1 to 10, eventually adding qualitative percentiles. Quite frankly it would then lead to further discussion with still having no positive conclusions being drawn. It would turn out to be like the dog chasing it's tail.

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#15 plindboe

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 04:24 PM

Ok, what exactly, if you had the money, the time and access, would you do/use to collect evidence of the paranormal?


I'll have to think about that. It's alot easier to find errors in a protocol than setting up a good one yourself, I'm not pretending it's a piece of cake. That said, I have made suggestions in the past whereby ghost huntings can be made more scientific. They were by no means perfect, but I think they could have made the research at least remotely scientific. I can try to find the thread if you want. (Right now I'm going to bed though as I'm extremely tired)


I'm not sure I understand this particular statement. Could you clarify?


I'm talking about the tendency of false belief systems to become more and more intangible, the more failures there have been in getting them verified, so the scraps we're inevitably left with are beliefs that are constructed in a way to be totally unverifiable by any means whatsoever. I'm reminded of Sagan's dragon:

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"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floates in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.
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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." (Bertrand Russell)




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