I am extra bitchy today for reasons I have not yet quite grasped. Deal with it.
First, a long over-do reply to Mr. Bill Nye the Science Guy. Let me begin by saying first and foremost, I am a fan and have been for quite some time. I watched his show on TV back in the day and the interview with CBS a few Sunday mornings ago. I found it interesting that he wishes he had gotten married and had a family because he is such a smart man doing wonderful things like spreading the joy of science to young and eager minds that I would think marriage and children would not be high on his list of regrets, let alone the top. Also, that interview gave me the idea to put my shark glass shatter toy on my mirror, so thanks for that.
This is also not to single out Mr. Nye. He represents a larger, scientific community and this blog is directed toward all of them.
But I digress. Here is where the rage begins:
I will give him credit for his smart word choices. He doesn’t say that there is not a snowflake’s chance in hell there is an afterlife or ghosts don’t exist, only that he has failed to find credible evidence to prove the existence of either. That is a huge difference between what he said and what was likely heard by the audience.
He starts by admitting that he, himself personally, does not believe in ghosts and has allegedly tried repeatedly to prove their existence with no credible evidence or reason to believe in such things. He also seems to hang his hat on Houdini’s insistence if anyone could come back from the dead he would. If we can’t explain the afterlife, how can we determine why Houdini did not return? Or perhaps Houdini was reincarnated or did, in fact, come back but we are unaware (or worse, perhaps we put him in an institution for claiming to be Houdini). Bill Nye then says that we imagine a ghost knocking over a candle as opposed to the wind. Who makes that jump in logic? I don’t know a single paranormal investigator that would jump to poltergeist over wind. Most investigators I know immediately try to get rid of all the logical explanations first and foremost, so that when we do find something that defies rational thought, we know we really have something to investigate. We don’t want to waste our time on bull crap plumbing or electrical problems. He also discusses his beloved grandmother. I am going to tread lightly with that one out of respect for Mr. Nye and his beloved grandmother. I will simply state again that if we cannot prove nor disprove the existence of the afterlife, how on Earth can he begin to criticize the belief of transformation of the body in the afterlife? That’s like saying, I don’t believe I can fly but if I could fly I don’t believe I would be able to carry on a conversation while flying around at 60 mph. One thing at a time, son. Either you believe or you don’t, and if you don’t, save the criticism for what happens there for when you decide to believe. This also applies to the Houdini reference above. I will give him credit for telling the young boy in the video there is no need to be afraid of ghosts (which, again, if you don’t believe is a pointless statement to make but at least he’s humoring the kid and, in my opinion, telling the truth).
Rage the First: I don’t know what he or the Counsel for Scientific Inquiry or the Skeptics Society has done to “investigate” claims of haunted houses or ghosts. I do not know what standard they operated by and what they required to be considered reliable, credible, scientific evidence. Without being overly boring about the whole thing, in essence, for scientific evidence to be empirical it must be able to be analyzed statistically and judged against scientific controls. (Side note: There is no such thing as scientific proof. Philosopher Karl Popper once wrote that “In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by ‘proof’ an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory.”) Now bear with me, cuz its about to get deep: Popper also said a scientist creatively develops a theory which may be falsified by testing the theory against evidence or known facts. Popper’s theory suggests that evidence can prove a theory wrong by establishing facts that are inconsistent with the theory. In contrast, evidence cannot prove a theory correct because other evidence, yet to be discovered, may exist that is inconsistent with the theory. Take a minute, digest, let it sink in. Re-read that as often as you need to.
So first we need to determine what data they are collecting to be analyzed, and what their scientific controls are. The tools most investigators of the paranormal use are digital voice recorders, video recorders (including regular cameras), and EMF detectors. If investigators are able to go into a house at some point and show no EMF readings because all power has been cut, record nothing abnormal either visually or audit-orally but return at a later date and show spikes or abnormalities or even direct answers via EVP to questions asked, then I would think we have a control with the empty and non-active house and data to be analyzed with the abnormal results in the second, active house visit. Frequently, places that are notoriously haunted are notoriously haunted because the same types of things occur with different people on different occasions, as in different people at different times all see the same large man in a dress coat walking the same direction at the same area of the building, or different people at different times can all hear the same voice cry out for mama in the same building. Thus, I would argue that the evidence can, in fact, be replicated, which is often a requirement for scientific evidence to be considered reliable. In fact, there have been court cases ruling a house haunted, and an actual government decree labeling some places as “officially” haunted (yes, I realize I just used our government to support a claim of legitimacy). But what do I know?
Rage The Second: Science is an ever-changing living scholarly pursuit. As Phoebe so eloquently pointed out in an episode of Friends: Wasn’t there a time when the brightest minds in the world believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50 years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing, until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably arrogant that you can’t admit that there’s a teeny tiny possibility that you could be wrong about this? I would, in essence, ask Mr. Nye the same thing. Perhaps he can stand strong on the evidence he has before him today and judge it not good enough to prove the existence of ghosts or the afterlife, but at least be open to the possibility that not everyone agrees with you and that you could be proven wrong any day. There are plenty of people out there who do believe, and support their belief by evidence they find to be credible (although I will concede some stake their claim on evidence that is phony bologna).
Rage the Third: I don’t appreciate the inference that paranormal investigators are dumb, witless people wasting their energy hunting for something that does not exist (“… your friends who believe in ghosts? You can outwit them, you will outsmart them because you will not waste energy looking for ghosts). Well, Mr. Nye, I can apply the same logic to any number of heretofore failed science experiments. I believe scientists are still trying to perfect time travel, but any pursuit before recent events, such as the 1950s when atoms were the smallest thing ever, would have been in vein. But wait, you say! It was not in vein, eventually the knowledge gathered built upon itself to gain what we know and do today. How is that same logic not applicable here? How is the information being gathered by paranormal investigators and researchers not being labelled as a stepping stone to provide solid, credible evidence to prove the existence of the afterlife down the road?
Rage the Fourth: Where’s the love? In the paranormal community we have to BEG to get scientific equipment. We have to create it ourselves. Society has had this great push to get kids (especially girls) into STEM -Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Great! So why do we have to borrow tools from construction sites like EMF readers, FLIR cameras, digital thermometers, etc. to be able to do our jobs in a half way decent scientific manner? Why are we the ugly step child begging for attention when in reality all we want is to bring scientific legitimacy to our pursuit? Shouldn’t science be clamoring to help us prove whatever we can, or even by being unable to prove anything after using the best in scientific equipment further prove we are wrong? The paranormal community would love to be snuggled in the bosom of the scientific community instead of bullied. We have been forced to create our own instruments, our own equipment, and for that scientists have laughed at us instead of trying to help us. Where are our engineers and physicists? Where are our scientists? We are forced to do things on our own and then told its not good enough to sit with the other pieces of science at the cool kids table, yet no one tells us how to make it work, how to make it good enough.
If you’re not going to help, get out of the way.
End of rant.