In hot pursuit of my tepidly popular and rarely cited piece titled: 5 Simple Rules For Ghost Hunting, the following is a concerted effort to build the Second Law of Thermodynamics into a sequential blog post. Success will be measured by a complete lack of response, precipitated by a total lack of comprehension and/or acute disinterest by my readership.
Ghost hunting has become something of a hobby these days, with popular media pretty much jumping ship on the likes of so-called reality TV stars of the paranormal genre. Nonetheless, there are many hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts who, for whatever reason, decided to emulate their favourite wanna-be paranormal super sleuth, by founding their very own band of merry ghost hunters.
Well, since there seem to be few among the pseudo-intellectuals guiding the paranormal investigators of today with a desire to speak of methodology, I’ve decided that it would be prudent, if not terribly snide, to recommend that those who wish to “hunt ghosts” should adhere to a few basic scientific principals. Though, the caveat in all this would be, simply, that these are real scientific principals as opposed to those offered by the likes of Chip Coffey et al.
Learn The Difference Between Correlation and Cause/Effect
I noticed when I flipped the light switch in my office, the light fixture in the room illuminated.
Is this a description of two correlated events, or is it a description of one event causing another? Even the smartest among you will likely get this wrong.
It is clearly a description of the former, in that, to the casual observer there is no evidence that the switch I flipped was indeed connected in any way to the fixture that became illuminated. Nor does it mention the delay between when I flipped the switch and when the fixture illuminated. The above description affords only a glimpse at the causal effect between the switch and the fixture and thus the two elements can only be considered to be correlated. In truth, the light could be controlled by a completely different toggle switch, or it could be controlled by photocell, or by a motion detector…or even a timer.
Had I included a laborious accounting of the wires connecting the two elements, the electrical charge controlled by the switch and thus used by the light fixture, and perhaps even a brief tutorial on electromagnetic theory, then it could have been considered the latter, though experimentation would be necessary to confirm this hypothesis.
The relatively common nature of the elements in question, light switches and light fixtures, notwithstanding, this is the easiest way to illustrate the fallacy of assumed causal relationships. Proving (and thus claiming) a cause/effect relationship between any two elements of any situation is exceedingly difficult, and this relates to “ghost hunting” in a most unfortunate way. From evidence of haunting – which can manifest in the form of sounds of any variety, optical effects, both real and photographic, and physical perturbances that may or may not leave quantifiable evidence behind – to EVP, to psychic phenomenon, all are bound by these same rules of observation.
A general rule to acknowledge and adhere to is: unless you can demonstrate a causal connection, in a repeatable manner, between all intermediate steps of each element of your observation, you cannot prove causation. A causal connection, incidentally, must be demonstrable and must show a temporal break between events (causal events must happen before effects). All paranormal investigators should hold this principal up as their cardinal rule.
Stop Buying Into The Technological Hype
There are very few segments of today’s culture that offer merchandisers so many opportunities to sell ineffective and, in some cases, ridiculous technology to an ever willing consumer base. I have covered this before, several times in fact, and out of those other pieces and their accompanying commentary there is one bit of wisdom you should take away…there is no magic button.
Just the same as there is no “Easy Button” in any other area of your life, there is no technology available that will give you any realistic insight into the paranormal. Whereas a device cannot be built upon knowledge that has not yet been achieved (Ovilus), it’s a suspicious thing to see high technology sold as toys and computer games instead of being heralded as cutting edge breakthroughs in physical science (Ghost Radar). Better yet, it’s an annoyingly futile thing to see the layman using tools without even the slightest idea how they work or what they measure, and even yet, to see those same tools manufactured with this errant purpose in mind (K2 Meter).
The only tool a paranormal researcher need boast about having in their bag of tricks, is well informed methodology and accurate observation.
Educate Yourself, No One Else Will
It used to be thought that the paranormal research genre was a viable arena for Joe Layman to set up shop and carve out at least a way to pass his time productively. But alas, I tell you this is not the case. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well, am I right? So then why not take the time to educate yourself on the subject at hand? And no, I don’t mean go get yourself a mail order degree in Parapsychology. I mean read…read a lot. Read anything and everything you can find on history and the physical sciences, after all, that is what you’re studying.
Take my word for it, whosoever happens to find proof of, say an afterlife, will not be an uneducated dullard. Nor will they be a metaphysical guru, for the extraordinary proof mainstream culture requires, will not be stumbled upon absentmindedly or by magical means. This is an endeavour of science, whether you want to admit it or not.
Empty Your Cup, Then Fill It Again
Once you’ve edumacated yourself, forget everything you know. I know, its counter intuitive and oxymoronic, but – and I don’t think I can put this in a more concise way – as the fictional Tibetan movie monk says: “if your cup is already full, how can you fill it any further?”
And as an equally wise, albeit real, man once said “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing…” (Socrates – in a monologue on the virtue of justice), and such it should be for all those engaged in the pursuit of ghosts, for we have much to learn. In fact we have everything to learn, so forget what you think you may know…and approach your subject with new eyes.
In closing…For my troubles above, what do I expect to receive in return? Accolades? No. Criticism? Possibly. Notoriety? Certainly not. Perhaps it is not what I expect to receive that will surprise me most. I expect little more than the barn yard neglect an ugly mule might receive, but if by any chance even one person is swayed by my words to act in a more logical manner, and in whom the world may find a better researcher and – dare I say it – scientist, whose insights and observations just might lead to an answer to these nagging questions of pseudo-scientific pursuit, I would say that I have received all that I ask.
Melodrama aside, do as you will, just please…do it better.