Posted 31 December 2008 - 11:45 PM
One of the best analogies I can think of is the Santa Claus scenario.
You are told that a man comes to your home on Christmas Eve after you've gone to bed. He flies onto your roof in a sleigh pulled by 8 flying reindeer, with a sack that has enough presents for every kid on the planet, barring the bad ones that he observed from his North Pole hideaway during the year.
He comes down your chimney with this sack, and places gifts for you underneath your tree. When he's done, he munches on some cookies you left for him, and washes them down with some milk. He then goes back to the chimney and is magically brought back up to his waiting team. He repeats this all night, delivering gifts all over the world to billions of people.
Now, you wake in the morning and you have some pretty conclusive evidence to corroborate the Santa story you were told. There are indeed presents under the tree, the cookies are gone, and the milk is, too. You call your friends, and they report the same thing - a load of gifts and missing milk and cookies. It would seem that Santa Claus did come, just like the story claimed. You are still a bit skeptical, and propose an experiment for next Christmas.
Christmas rolls around again, but this year you are prepared. You've rigged a motion detecting camera aimed at your chimney, and have placed a few cctv cameras watching the roof, the tree, and the milk and cookie bait. Heading back up to your room, you turn on the monitors and wait for the jolly fat guy to make an appearance. As you watch, you see your parents come into frame, placing gifts under the tree. You watch as one of them eats the cookies and drinks the milk. As they head to the fireplace to fill the stockings, they trip the motion activated camera and you get a couple of very detailed shots of your surprised parents.
So here we have two very different scenarios. Just the year before, it was easy to believe that Santa Claus came down the chimney. A year later, with a little in-depth investigation, you find out it's mom and dad pulling off the Christmas caper. But for the whole year before you got your evidence, you were quite ok in believing that it was indeed Santa, and no amount of swaying would convince you otherwise.
And so it's the same with paranormal experiences. You can believe that the cold spot and mysterious noises you hear at night are the spirit of Uncle Charlie, and until you try and find out exactly what is going on, it can be very easy to stay with that belief. But after letting some knowledgeable people into your home who have experience researching paranormal claims in detail, they determine the cold spot is caused by a drafty window near your bed and the noises you are hearing are the expansion of your heater pipes as hot water travels through the system.
I think what Jim was trying to get at is there are so many that will still believe it's Santa Claus bringing those gifts and eating the goodies even though the evidence says otherwise. There are many who are very knowledgeable in certain proven sciences such as audio recording, photography, videography, and even construction who offer reasonable advice on the different types of data submitted claiming paranormal activity. It's important to take what is said into consideration, because it helps explain the very normal things we can capture. Once you learn how to decipher these normal things, it's alot easier to pinpoint actual unexplainable phenomena when it's there. But just believing it's Santa, or Uncle Charlie, doesn't mean that what is on film or in an audio recording is proof they were visiting at that particular point in time. And sometimes it's the firm belief in light of being informed what is really going on that keeps us from learning.
The credo I stick with is simple - I don't know what I don't know. that's why I try to learn as much as I can when it comes to researching and investigating before I make determinations.
Ok, I don't know if that is what Jim meant, really, but that's what I got from it.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Herbert Spencer