Sunday, July 20, 2008

At least they get some of it right.

When we recently registered the domain - prior to redirecting it, we had the standard default "here's a bunch of links kinda like what you may have been looking for" which the domain registrars use to pimp out your domain for some ad revenue until you put up a real page.

And one of those links on our site was for because as we all know - skepticism and ghost hunting are about as closely related as creationism and evolution.
I suppose it could, or more likely was, the Richmond part of the link that lumped us together....but that's just not as interesting.

Before I dive into the reasons that I think the folks over at might not really have any proof - at all - of anything close to their magical ghost claim.  I would like to take a moment to recognize the things they get right.  Really, I was almost surprised.

First off, they openly acknowledge some of their investigations are clearly not conclusive.   This is good - generally folks that believe in "woo" are not open to rational explanations for the phenomenon they claim to have observed or otherwise professed a belief in.  It also opens the door to the idea that they may be willing to reconsider their position, given further rational opinions on the data they have collected.

Secondly, they openly warn against paying someone to perform the types of investigations they enjoy performing. This is at the bottom on their page for contacting them to preform a paranormal investigation.

And finally, they are clearly in this activity for the fun of it.  And I can respect that.  I am writing this blog for the fun of it - so we see eye to eye there.

Now, let's discuss some of the things about their site I find to be misleading, or at least potentially harmful to people with diminished critical thinking skills.

The most obvious problem with their activity is that there really is nothing new here.  They recycle the same-old ghost hunting arguments and tactics.   For instance:

-Misusing electronic devices to measure things which they believe to be "proof" of ghosts.
-Pretending to have an established protocol to follow which aids in the detection of the ghosts - which sounds kinda science-like, but is just made up crap.
-Investigations are typically ripe with post-hoc analysis.  That is, they record everything and anything and then dig for 'evidence' later.  Typcially, effective scientific claims involve hypothesis that predict the observed behavior - not just rationalizing anything that happened after the fact as a 'hit.'

So, they have some of the typical problems most skeptics like to poke holes in around these sorts of claims.  It's just for fun, right?  There's no harm here!

Well, no - there is plenty.  You just may not have seen it yet, therefore - it may not have affected you or your family personally.  Even then, you should still be concerned.  There are other issues here - real, falsifiable and demonstrable ones (unlike the ghosts) that one should consider before calling the Ghost hunters - and professing a real belief in ghosts.

A silly belief  (such as ghosts) can lead to other silly beliefs.   If there is an implausible claim which someone is "shown" to be true by a local groups of hobbyists - then perhaps a believer (or Victim) might just start to believe in other implausible claims in their day to day life.  Other similar claims that ignore the protocols of the scientific method - and have the very real potential to do very real harm.

The Victim may move further down the long trail of self-delusion - into belief in those other things.   Things like skipping vaccinations for their children, giving money to other psychic frauds, or even forgoing standard medical care in the name of the poorly "proven" woo - resulting in a likely early death.

My problem with Ghost hunting is that it attacks the skills people use to avoid these and other frauds.  Gateway woo, if you will.  And it's right here, in our backyard.

This is important.  

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