Ghost hunter opens up with problems in his field

Nick Duffy was one of the founders of the West Midlands Ghost Club back in 1989. This is an interesting piece that hits upon a number of issues in the paranormal field.

Ghosts? What people see is a brief snapshot into the past « Express & Star.

“Our aim investigation-wise was always to be objective, we didn’t want to get carried away. We would just go into places and do a stakeout. No psychics, no EMF meters, we have no use for all of that. These days, people have those things for novelty value. It impresses people, but it’s not worth much.

“This sort of thing has always attracted strange people – I think we even outgun ufology when it comes to weirdness – but ever since shows like Most Haunted, it’s become ludicrous, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.”

But, then they say “using audio visual equipment, temperature recordings and trigger objects such as crucifixes and old coins to find proof of ghosts.” That’s not scientific. Since the question should be “what is happening, if anything,” not presuming that ghosts are real. Changes in environmental conditions does not equal paranormal activity. Duffy notes that some people who think they are experiencing the paranormal are troubled in their own right, such as a woman suffering from dementia. And some take advantage of that. He has not seen a ghost but thinks that places can hold memories. There is no scientific basis for places recording events but it is a common idea.

Duffy also opens up about a huge problem with paranormal investigation:

“These days, people charge the ghost groups to come in and investigate and it’s like a theme park. There’s speakers and cameras etc, it’s all set up. Investigations and ghost tours are big business and places manipulate their ghostly heritage for fiscal gain.

It’s encouraging that some paranormal investigators recognize the big problem issues but the field is off track in so many ways it’s not progressing anywhere except for those that exploit the money-making angle. Sad.

  6 comments for “Ghost hunter opens up with problems in his field

  1. Chris Jensen Romer
    June 2, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    I suggest there are modes of ghost research that may be more fruitful in this old article of mine:

  2. One Eyed Jack
    June 2, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I’m often amazed at what passes for “evidence” among True Believer (TB) ghost hunters. Obvious lens flares and other photographic artifacts are pounced upon like a starving lions. When someone desperately wants something to be true, they lower their standards for evidence.

    Arguments from reason and evidence are minimally effective with a TB. It takes an emotional experience to change their emotional investment. In religion we call it a crisis of faith; an emotional crisis where religion fails and makes them reevaluate their belief. Are there similar moments in pseudoscience? Are there ways to trigger those moments?

    I don’t know, but reason feels like throwing pebbles at a brick wall.

  3. June 3, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    I’ll state right off the bat that I’m a strong believer in the laws of thermodynamics, especially entropy. If you believe in entropy, you have to also be skeptical about any kind of life after death, ghosts, spirits, and so on. You have to believe that structure and order can exist without the normal materials that tend to hold structure temporarily stable (such as a human body. You have to believe that an intelligence can exist without a physical brain, without breaking down via entropy. You take an eye-dropper, and drop a bit of die into a lake and its molecules randomly spread out through the chaos of molecular motion. Those molecules are no longer held together by its container.

    But in the case of intelligence, it’s even worse. In the dye example, you have a relatively simple molecule with relatively little information stored. But a human being is far more complex. Something as simple as spinning around can make you dizzy or ill, disrupting your faculties. Or banging your head playing sports, or whiplash in a car, can do varying amount of damage, disrupting behavior, sometimes disrupting personality, arguably, you can disrupt a persons whole identity.

    And you don’t even have to bump your head. Sometimes all you have to do is live long enough and you’ll lose your memories, your ability to reason, your ability to distinguish reality from delusion, and so on. And all of that has to do with physical changes to the brain — again, entropy is a real bitch.

    And all of that is with a pretty good physical container for the person. I cannot comprehend how anyone can believe that given what happens to the individual when the container is damaged, can at the same time believe that the individual can exist without any container whatsoever.

    And I’m being a bit facetious, because I don’t actually believe that an individual exists separate from ones body — based on all evidence that I’ve seen, that brain and body seems to be intrinsic to a person’s identity, because damage one and it affects everything… That’s what the evidence seems to be hinting at. If that’s not true, then something is terribly wrong with the laws of Thermodynamics, and entropy would have to be a lie.

  4. Chris Jensen Romer
    June 3, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    I recently did a quick survey of a small number of working neurologists, and was surprised that well over half of those who responded were dualists, or at least some form of non-materialist. I was actually asking questions about what they thought of brain mind relationship: the consensus was that mind was not equal to brain activity. I was curious about this: obviously just because they know about the brain does not mean they are philosophers, or correct, no argument from authority, and I only spoke to a small number, but it was interesting. I may do some formal research on this, and see why. I certainly don’t think the case for us being physical entities is much more than a philosophical opinion: ditto the contrary.

  5. June 3, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    @Chris Jensen Romer
    Those neurologists need to get into a room with some physicists and sort things out then. It sounds to me like one side isn’t talking to the other.

    In any case, the realm of philosophy deals primarily with great unanswerable questions. But when scientific theory and evidence points in one direction or another, you are entering the realm of the scientist. Granted, it’s indirect evidence, not direct evidence. But that’s the whole point of theory — so that you can make generalized theories in order to make knowledgeable statements about things that may not be directly observable. What you can say based on the science, is that IF an entity can exist separate from ones physicality, that physicality should not be so relevant to the entity. and all evidence points to the contrary. Furthermore, if it can exist separate, without a container, then it must be incredibly unstable, as something so complex should decay into chaos over an incredibly short timescale. Unless some new revelation in the field of physics makes this more credible, I don’t think that the believers have a leg to stand on.

    I have no doubt that people see things that they don’t know how to explain (I refuse to use the phrase ‘can’t explain’ because it is totally defeatist). We have been learning all sorts of things about how the brain, with all its flaws, interprets its incoming data, making so many mistakes that, imho, it’s actually more surprising what we get right than what we get wrong.

  6. June 5, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    I embedded myself into a “professional” ghost hunt not too long ago for a research project. The whole thing was just one big Ouija board – bringing out an endless array of equipment to create phenomena that could be ascribed to “ghosts.” There was no attempt made to observe or investigate the actual claims made at the property. I debunked a couple of the observed phenomena (and debunking in this case is the correct word) and was met with anger, even though my interpretation was obvious. These “professionals” didn’t want to know what was REALLY going on or how they were fooling themselves.

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