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Paranormal Research & The Scientific Method
#1
In the world of paranormal research there is an ongoing debate as to the validity of this subject within the realm of true scientific study. Many claim this to be a pseudo-science, some claim that it can’t be studied using science and others think it’s just plain outright hokum. Well as a person who has studied this alleged “pseudo-non-scientific hokum” for nearly a decade I can tell you there is a lot more to the story than the opponents of this field (yes field) take into consideration. I have found that anyone who makes use the above mentioned terms very often doesn’t understand what science really is. I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of pseudo-scientific approaches being taken in this field today. Far too many in fact. There are people racing to conclusions, making assumptions, failing to research principles, manipulating and just outright lying to support their claims. They do this under the guise of self-proclaimed gifts/expertise, personal experiences and photographic, video and audible evidence that has absolutely zero scientific support.

However, this doesn’t mean that real scientific research in this field is not be conducted. The people doing the poorest job tend to have the better press and so most often, the public perception of this field is represented by people who quite frankly have no idea what they are doing. The claim that this research in general is pseudo-scientific isn’t new. Since science started researching this field back in the 1800’s there have been accusations that the research just isn’t viable. The battles between those for and against have carried on for more than 100 years. France has recently denounced the subject of paranormal in general as “Pseudo-scientific fraud” and will no longer broadcast paranormal related programming. I must admit, the programming is junk. But that does not speak to the real research being done around the world.

In 2003 an in depth study was conducted by Marie-Catherine Mousseau (in Dublin, Ireland) to establish if paranormal research meets the criteria often said to characterize pseudo-science. She searched the planet to find evidence of paranormal study being conducted to the standards of the mainstream scientific community.

Her results:

“I completed the analysis of written communication with an attempt to evaluate the peer-review process. I concluded that fringe journals practice peer review in the same general way as mainstream journals. Experience of the 45th convention of the PA was, again, no different from what is experienced at mainstream meetings; researchers questioned and criticized each other’s work, albeit perhaps not to the same extent as at mainstream conferences. A less competitive and more friendly atmosphere could be partly explained by the unusually large range of subjects dealt with compared to the smallness of the community (the ninety-five attending people included psychologists, philosophers, historians, neuroscientists, and physicists). Few researchers would be competent enough to argue in all these areas. On the other hand, this interdisciplinary atmosphere was intellectually very stimulating. To conclude, the contemptuous attitude of French scholars regarding research into the paranormal does not appear to be justified. This research fulfills most of the scientific methodological criteria that characterize ‘‘real’’ science. Communication among researchers in parapsychology reflects the essence of a scientific attitude: they constantly question their work, confront theories and facts, and seek critical comments from their peers.”

The first thing to understand is that science is this: “The measurement and study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”. It’s essentially a system of knowledge that started out in the 17th century as more a philosophy than the strict method of research. Although many of the elements of scrutiny, analysis and evaluation founded in this philosophy are still in use today.

Let’s look at the definition of Science a little closer. “The study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”. First, everything is part of the natural world, no matter how bizarre it may be. Even man-made things are made from elements found naturally on this planet. We may mix things together to create derivatives but the pieces we use are from this Earth and subject to be studied and broken down by science.

If we have a paranormal experience, the elements that make up that experience are tangible to some degree. To see something it must reflect or emit light. To hear something it must move air molecules to produce sound. To move an object it must be able to produce a force etc. All of these things are measurable within the guidelines of proper science. Even if the experience were to be entirely psychological and contains none of the elements mentioned above, it is still able to be scientifically studied because our mind must perceive the event and process the experience and that is still worthy of true scientific study.

The process of this strict scientific study involves what is known as “The Scientific Method” which came into popular use in the 19th century. This method has been used for countless discoveries including cures for sickness, energy production and even the discovery and understanding of living organisms. It’s truly transformed the world we live in and there is not a day that goes by that you don’t encounter a product of the proper scientific method.

So how does one apply this to paranormal research? Glad you asked.
You can find my entire post on applying the Scientific Method here:

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#2
The link was removed by the forum (apparently no links to other sources ). The test and library is at paranormalnewengland . com just search for "Scientific"

(07-08-2014, 12:15 PM)MichaelJBaker Wrote: In the world of paranormal research there is an ongoing debate as to the validity of this subject within the realm of true scientific study. Many claim this to be a pseudo-science, some claim that it can’t be studied using science and others think it’s just plain outright hokum. Well as a person who has studied this alleged “pseudo-non-scientific hokum” for nearly a decade I can tell you there is a lot more to the story than the opponents of this field (yes field) take into consideration. I have found that anyone who makes use the above mentioned terms very often doesn’t understand what science really is. I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of pseudo-scientific approaches being taken in this field today. Far too many in fact. There are people racing to conclusions, making assumptions, failing to research principles, manipulating and just outright lying to support their claims. They do this under the guise of self-proclaimed gifts/expertise, personal experiences and photographic, video and audible evidence that has absolutely zero scientific support.

However, this doesn’t mean that real scientific research in this field is not be conducted. The people doing the poorest job tend to have the better press and so most often, the public perception of this field is represented by people who quite frankly have no idea what they are doing. The claim that this research in general is pseudo-scientific isn’t new. Since science started researching this field back in the 1800’s there have been accusations that the research just isn’t viable. The battles between those for and against have carried on for more than 100 years. France has recently denounced the subject of paranormal in general as “Pseudo-scientific fraud” and will no longer broadcast paranormal related programming. I must admit, the programming is junk. But that does not speak to the real research being done around the world.

In 2003 an in depth study was conducted by Marie-Catherine Mousseau (in Dublin, Ireland) to establish if paranormal research meets the criteria often said to characterize pseudo-science. She searched the planet to find evidence of paranormal study being conducted to the standards of the mainstream scientific community.

Her results:

“I completed the analysis of written communication with an attempt to evaluate the peer-review process. I concluded that fringe journals practice peer review in the same general way as mainstream journals. Experience of the 45th convention of the PA was, again, no different from what is experienced at mainstream meetings; researchers questioned and criticized each other’s work, albeit perhaps not to the same extent as at mainstream conferences. A less competitive and more friendly atmosphere could be partly explained by the unusually large range of subjects dealt with compared to the smallness of the community (the ninety-five attending people included psychologists, philosophers, historians, neuroscientists, and physicists). Few researchers would be competent enough to argue in all these areas. On the other hand, this interdisciplinary atmosphere was intellectually very stimulating. To conclude, the contemptuous attitude of French scholars regarding research into the paranormal does not appear to be justified. This research fulfills most of the scientific methodological criteria that characterize ‘‘real’’ science. Communication among researchers in parapsychology reflects the essence of a scientific attitude: they constantly question their work, confront theories and facts, and seek critical comments from their peers.”

The first thing to understand is that science is this: “The measurement and study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”. It’s essentially a system of knowledge that started out in the 17th century as more a philosophy than the strict method of research. Although many of the elements of scrutiny, analysis and evaluation founded in this philosophy are still in use today.

Let’s look at the definition of Science a little closer. “The study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”. First, everything is part of the natural world, no matter how bizarre it may be. Even man-made things are made from elements found naturally on this planet. We may mix things together to create derivatives but the pieces we use are from this Earth and subject to be studied and broken down by science.

If we have a paranormal experience, the elements that make up that experience are tangible to some degree. To see something it must reflect or emit light. To hear something it must move air molecules to produce sound. To move an object it must be able to produce a force etc. All of these things are measurable within the guidelines of proper science. Even if the experience were to be entirely psychological and contains none of the elements mentioned above, it is still able to be scientifically studied because our mind must perceive the event and process the experience and that is still worthy of true scientific study.

The process of this strict scientific study involves what is known as “The Scientific Method” which came into popular use in the 19th century. This method has been used for countless discoveries including cures for sickness, energy production and even the discovery and understanding of living organisms. It’s truly transformed the world we live in and there is not a day that goes by that you don’t encounter a product of the proper scientific method.

So how does one apply this to paranormal research? Glad you asked.
You can find my entire post on applying the Scientific Method here:

Reply
#3
Hi Michael and welcome. Yes, there is a rule here about posting links, but it is nothing personal--just to avoid people spamming the forum. It is 25 posts for a link in your signature and 50 posts for a link in our Show Your Stuff forum.

Hope you enjoy the discussions here.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” ~Philip K. Dick

http://paranormalinreview2.zohosites.com/home.html

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#4
To comment on your post, I would have to say that I do think it is possible to apply the scientific method to researching paranormal. I've read papers that show there is not a lack of interest in the scientific field in regards to the unexplained. The problem has been the majority that say "scientific method" are using it as a buzzword. They call something a theory when it barely qualifies as hypothesis. Much of the time it is an opinion filled with assumptions.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” ~Philip K. Dick

http://paranormalinreview2.zohosites.com/home.html

Reply
#5
"...If we have a paranormal experience, the elements that make up that experience are tangible to some degree. To see something it must reflect or emit light. To hear something it must move air molecules to produce sound. To move an object it must be able to produce a force etc. All of these things are measurable within the guidelines of proper science. Even if the experience were to be entirely psychological and contains none of the elements mentioned above, it is still able to be scientifically studied because our mind must perceive the event and process the experience and that is still worthy of true scientific study."

That's where a lot of the confusion lies. Psychic ability is NOT measurable in the same way as physical sensory abilities. Eyes see light. Cameras measure light. But psychic visions are NOT made of light. So much of the paranormal falls outside of the senses, and cannot be measured in the way we measure physical things.

Same with hearing. Clairaudience deals with sounds not heard with the ears. I know this one. Had it happen to me. CLEAR voice, but not heard with my ears. I'd have thought I was going nuts except it warned me of something that happened seconds later. But you could have run a sound recorder through it all, and not picked up anything at all. It wasn't that kind of sound.
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#6
It's just difficult to examine phenomena that doesn't always want to cooperate. It's elusive. Some people will experience it, while others don't. And it's rather random. It's not like you can say ok...at 7 pm every night a lady in white will appear in that window. The stuff happens on its own schedule, and that makes it harder to pin down and scrutinize.
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#7
(07-09-2014, 08:53 PM)ChaosRose Wrote: It's just difficult to examine phenomena that doesn't always want to cooperate. It's elusive. Some people will experience it, while others don't. And it's rather random. It's not like you can say ok...at 7 pm every night a lady in white will appear in that window. The stuff happens on its own schedule, and that makes it harder to pin down and scrutinize.

Everyone wants to investigate the big stuff, but there are compelling research findings that indicate that psi exists. These are replicable, peer reviewed scientific studies that are there for the asking, but they don't tend to deal with the sexy stuff that makes great TV.
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#8
Thanks for the response. There is more to seeing light than just light itself. The responses of the brain during these events are measurable. So are the reactions of the eyes and other body functions. Biological/neurological research is vital, particularly in the field of psychical research because the body is the vehicle for the experience. Environment may also play a part, location or any combination of tangible elements. Every experience we have is derived and processed through the brain. The reactions and functions of our brain to the experiences we have are measurable and they can tell us a lot about the nature experience. For example: if someone experiences the strong feeling of presence in the room with them, there could be several reasons. 1: Someone is in the room with them (physical or otherwise) 2: They are experiencing temporal lobe epilepsy as discovered by Persinger in 1980. When this happens half the brain in seizure triggered by environmental electromagnetic impulses. The other half now treats the half that's in seizure as though it's a completely different being. It even assigns an identity to it. If the left half is in seizure, the experience is pleasant, if the right half is in seizure the experience is darker in nature. This effect has been demonstrated through experimentation hundreds of times. 3: There is a psychosis affecting the cognitive thought process. All of these things are measurable through the brain of the receiver.
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#9
I absolutely agree with what you have in this discussion Michael Baker. I feel the same way, there should be a scientific method that is suited for paranormal research. But some members of the community are more interested in the mysticism side of the paranormal realm. For me I find it really hard to be part of paranormal groups because they need lie about their research and a lot of it is to fill their ego or they just mislead themselves. Or members don't want to look at the scientific aspect or reality of a situation such as orbs or a creaking house etc... I am fine with people believing in spirits etc...but I feel as a RESEARCHER you should use scientific reasoning and means to cancel out or close out cases. Unless it is something that can NOT be explained or proven by science then there is of course room for the spirituality. Science is not meant to uncover everything it is the universal pursuit of knowledge.



Also to note it will be difficult to include scientific method suited for the paranormal field due to too much difference between the scientific oriented, skeptics, and non scientific based groups. but that is just my opinion on the matter Sad
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#10
We would need to start with our skeptics being more informed, there are a couple of pseudo skeptics here that don't even know what are the laws of science and deny them, when you start talking about scientiffic stuff with them, they just get upset and attack because they can't accept that they don't know

Affortunately, we also have a couple more serious skeptics, we need them if we want to get to something, but we need real ones, opened to really discuss, inform themselves and research instead of only attacking and trying to ridiculize without any basis.
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