Belief in Ghosts, Mediums, Unexplained Phenomena

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Discussion by: Alexinpessac

If we define atheism as a non-belief or refusal to believe in a god/God then I am certainly an atheist. Dawkins and Hitchens are my bedside reads and like most of you I'm frustrated by people's gullibility. However (and this is the tricky/potentially embarrassing part) I am open to the existence of what are loosely called 'ghosts', for several reasons.

Firstly, I have read several books about ghosts and 'earthbound spirits' written by mediums and paranormal experts, and I have to say that there is an ENORMOUS amount of anecdotal evidence of ghost activity. Secondly, I have myself experienced what is known as Poltergeist activity (in my father's house many years ago when I stayed there to prove to my terrified dad that he was only imagining it !! He wasn't…) And thirdly, having read 'The God Delusion' and 'god is not Great' I do not really see the connection between deities (daft ideas) and 'ghosts' etc, which like us DO NOT depend on the existence of a god for their own existence. Surely there could be a scientific explanation for ghosts that we just haven't found yet.

I've noticed that suggestions of 'paranormal' things get foghorns of derision on this site, but please do not just laugh or dismiss me as gullible (which is tempting I suppose in the light of the second line). Of course there are frauds and nobody has won the Randi prize, but I suggest ghosts can exist even though God does not. What do you think?

59 COMMENTS

  1. An elderly relative used to see the evidence of poltergeist everywhere…..if she couldn’t find her glasses, poltergeist ( mischievous spirits, as defined by her) had hidden them or moved them to another place. On the other hand, I had never heard of these things, so I just assumed they’d been misplaced.

  2. Just think how long TV and movie cameras have now been around, and the fact the almost everyone in the developed world (and many in the developing world) has been walking around for several years now with a high quality video camera (on their cellphone) in their pocket.

    If there were ghosts, poltergeists and aliens running around as much as anecdotal evidence suggests, we would surely have thousands of hours of convincing footage to view. We have none whatsoever.

    • In reply to #3 by Simon Tuffen:

      Just think how long TV and movie cameras have now been around, and the fact the almost everyone in the developed world (and many in the developing world) has been walking around for several years now with a high quality video camera (on their cellphone) in their pocket.

      If there were ghosts, polter…
      Well. our eyes don’t see X rays but they are electromagnetic radiation. You accept the existence of X rays because we can measure. It is unreasonable to assume then that a video camera is going to be able to film a ghost any more than a helicopter is going to fly to the moon. It’s the wrong tool for the job. The only thing we can say about ghosts is we cant see them in the visible spectrum. This doesn’t mean to say they exist, it simply means what it says.
      Science starts with an observation and then an assumption based on the observation. Then the whole of the science world does its best to make you look stupid. If you end up not looking stupid you’ve got something. However, just because you think it may be there does not mean that it will be there.

  3. I predict claims suggesting that there are ‘more things in heaven and earth..’ being evoked by the superstitious. As Richard Dawkins has said on numerous occasions, ‘anecdotal evidence proves nothing’. It’s a fact that invisible forces and fields exist, such as magnetism, but they’re measurable or able to be detected in some way. How would the whole spirit, ghost concept work, undetected by instruments, alongside the physical world? It’s the practicalities that always intrigue me. And, why would they exist?

    • In reply to #5 by Nitya:

      I predict claims suggesting that there are ‘more things in heaven and earth..’ being evoked by the superstitious. As Richard Dawkins has said on numerous occasions, ‘anecdotal evidence proves nothing’. It’s a fact that invisible forces and fields exist, such as magnetism, but they’re measurable or…
      Actually. It’s not a fact invisible forces and fields exist. As soon as we can “see” them they are no longer “invisible.” If we accept your argument we must accept the existence of god.
      There may be something out there we have not yet discovered as of yet. Similarly there may not be. We cannot base our futures on what our pasts have thrown up, otherwise we get stupid claims of global warming, growing ozone holes etc etc.
      How would they exist and why would they exist are good questions. If you’re interested in that, why not follow your argument down the path and see where it takes you?

      • In reply to #56 by Jon Sims:

        In reply to #5 by Nitya:

        We cannot base our futures on what our pasts have thrown up, otherwise we get stupid claims of global warming, growing ozone holes etc etc,…

        Which invisible ghosts or mediums should we consult for more dependable scientific advice than that which we currently rely upon?

        Magnetism? Yes… pretty spooky.

      • In reply to #56 by Jon Sims:

        In reply to #5 by Nitya:

        I predict claims suggesting that there are ‘more things in heaven and earth..’ being evoked by the superstitious. As Richard Dawkins has said on numerous occasions, ‘anecdotal evidence proves nothing’. It’s a fact that invisible forces and fields exist, such as magnetism,…

        I’m sorry, but your logic all but escapes me. Are you making some sort of theistic counter-claim and throwing in a bit of climate change scepticism for good measure? Magnetism , electricity , sound waves etc are all things that were unknown in the distant past, but are now known, understood and utilized because science has been able to verify their existence and properties.

        If an unknown, undetectable entity with the properties of a god exists, he/she/it has yet to be revealed, so I think we are able to continue on with our lives with the assumption that one doesn’t exist. If and when we’re proved wrong and such a being shows signs of a measurable presence, I guess we atheists will have to have a rethink.

  4. When we don’t understand something, we tend to call it magic, supernatural or paranormal. As soon as we do understand it, it returns to the real world as a natural phenomenon. Thunder was once supernatural (the product of Thor’s hammerings in northern Europe) – now we understand it, it’s a natural phenomenon.

    There are things we don’t yet understand (though sometimes even these are understood rather better than most people believe) and we call them paranormal. But we’ll stop when our understanding of brain processes and other phenomena grows, and they’ll become part of the natural world.

  5. “I’ve noticed that suggestions of ‘paranormal’ things get foghorns of derision on this site, …”
    That’s because most folks on this site are interested in evidence. Nothing detracts more from a good story than evidence. There is nothing wrong with entertainment as long as it is not confused with fact. Our species devotes a great deal of effort to entertainment. The drive exhibited by many scientists in the pursuit of evidence is to some degree entertaining to them and to those of us interested in their work. It is very important to remember that “evidence” can be experienced by anyone willing to duplicate the efforts of the person presenting said “evidence”. Anecdotal evidence is a bit of an oxymoron. I do not doubt your sincerity in believing that you had a paranormal experience, but believing does not qualify as evidence. We all dream… some of us with our eyes open.

    • In reply to #8 by chanelok:

      “I’ve noticed that suggestions of ‘paranormal’ things get foghorns of derision on this site, …”
      That’s because most folks on this site are interested in evidence. Nothing detracts more from a good story than evidence. There is nothing wrong with entertainment as long as it is not confused with fac…

    • In reply to #8 by chanelok:
      Nothing detracts more from a good story than evidence.

      It is a TV or movie cliche, that if anyone mentions a superstition or curse, that the person who pooh-poohs it will experience great misfortune as a result.

      It is a nutty message to give in the interest of a scary story.

  6. I am an atheist/secular humanist; however, I must admit that I had a very terrifying “ghost” experience that I cannot explain. I can only chalk it up to something going on with my brain. Still, it felt very, very real. My eyes were open, and I hadn’t been drinking alcohol, taking any meds at all, wasn’t overly tired, no epilepsy/seizures, hadn’t just watched a scary movie/historical movie, had not been reading, etc. This old man in 1880s style clothing appeared about 6 feet away from me. I could sort of see through him as if he was not solid. He looked at me and smiled, and I could feel my heart pounding rapidly inside my chest, and I broke out in an instantaneous sweat. I desperately tried to figure out what it was and if I was somehow actually dreaming, but I was fully aware of my surroundings, that I was awake, and that this thing did not belong here. It then moved towards me, almost gliding along, and then extended one arm out to touch me. It was trying to “connect” with me, and with that realization, a scream erupted out of me, while I scrambled to get away — it was terrifying. Just as instantly as it had appeared, it disappeared. The whole experience lasted a couple of seconds or so. I have no explanation, but I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits, devils, angels, fairies, Big Foot, little green men, elves, etc. It must be something that can go on inside the brain, and I’d love to know what exactly. I hope science can one day explain this because I don’t think I’m the only person to experience such a thing, but for many people, they simply accept the “sighting” as a ghost and the myth continues…

    • In reply to #9 by PetesSake:

      I am an atheist/secular humanist; however, I must admit that I had a very terrifying “ghost” experience that I cannot explain.

      What I find interesting about ghost stories, ethereal apparitions, ectoplasms is that they never leave a trace, a disturbance behind. Nothing to be analysed, with the exception of the occasional soiled undergarments. Purely perception tricks. Which to me points to just simple hallucinations.

      Then again, I never had one.

    • In reply to #9 by PetesSake:

      I am an atheist/secular humanist; however, I must admit that I had a very terrifying “ghost” experience that I cannot explain. I can only chalk it up to something going on with my brain. Still, it felt very, very real. My eyes were open, and I hadn’t been drinking alcohol, taking any meds at all,…

      welcome to sleep paralysis

      the bad news, the second time is no less scary when you know what’s going on

    • In reply to #9 by PetesSake:

      Family Ghost Story.

      When I was 21 I was deathly ill. I lay in bed at my parent’s house waking at odd hours of the day or night. One night I heard the floor boards creaking as someone walked down the hall. I called out asking who it was. They did not answer. The next night it happened again. Mom was convinced it was the ghost of my grandfather come to announce my death (Mom was not totally sincere in her atheism). My Dad was quite annoyed with this nonsense. The third night I called out and Dad came running down the hall with the dog woofing. He found nothing. This became a mysterious family story. Some time later my younger sister said “I wish everyone would stop telling that story. It was me. I was sneaking in late from a date. I was hiding behind the curtain. Kimmy (the dog) found me, but I just pushed him away.

    • In reply to #9 by PetesSake:

      I am an atheist/secular humanist; however, I must admit that I had a very terrifying “ghost” experience that I cannot explain. I can only chalk it up to something going on with my brain. Still, it felt very, very real. My eyes were open, and I hadn’t been drinking alcohol, taking any meds at all,…

      Most likely what you experienced is a well known sleep disorder known as Night Terrors I’ve experienced this several times in my teens and 20’s and 30’s. Its a special kind of very vivid nightmare. And the nightmare setting often is the room you fell asleep in, so its very common to think you just woke up (or were about to go to sleep) when the encounter happens.

  7. Great, your father’s place experiences repeatable occurrences of unexplained phenomenons. Why don’t you run experiments yourself? In the meanwhile, we can be as dismissive as we like.

    Don’t make special cases because it happens to suit your particular belief system. Confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, the usual trappings of relying on anecdotal evidence.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson says it best, a UFO has the word ‘Unidentified’ in it. You don’t get to call them Aliens until you have categorical proof.

  8. yes you were correct,the foghorns of derision are indeed blowing.however on a more helpful note may i suggest you read “paranormality ” by Dr Richard Wiseman. its an easy to read book that goes a long way towards explaining why we see things that don’t exist and how easily the brain can be tricked.it also shows how you can become a “mediun/fortune teller”-a lot of fun can be had with the tips he gives on fooling friends and family.

  9. Have you read “Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan? It’s an oldy but a goody and it might help provide scientific explanations for the experiences you have had. “The Science of Miracles: Investigating the Incredible”
    by Joe Nickell might also help. They’re both great books and helped me get a better understanding of paranormal experiences.

  10. I’m as hardcore an atheist and sceptic as they come and I have seen a “ghost”.

    The problem with the word “ghost” is that it’s on par with the number of definitions of God.

    Did I think I saw a human spirit? Not a chance. I did see something (which was also witnessed by my friend), but I just chalk it up to an unknown experience as I can’t produce any evidence one way or another as to what I saw.

  11. In terms of the vaguest meaning of the word ‘ghost’ I would agree that there is a possibility for their existence, the possibility for apparitions and unexplained or unexplainable images. As to whether or not these phantoms are based in the physical world or have any connection to an external spirit or conciousness is on par with the existence of god however.
    Just as UFO’s exist, there certainly is evidence of unidentified flying objects, but there is no evidence for aliens.

    There’s also mountains of anecdotal evidence for the existence of angles, for the miracles of jesus and communication with god. There are also countless people have personally witnessed and experienced gods existence. But that would not imply anything towards the actual existence of god. Likewise, your personal experience and anecdotal research into ghosts does not provide a shred of implication as to the existence of ghosts beyond the fact that other people believe they have witnessed them.

  12. which like us DO NOT depend on the existence of a god for their own existence.

    but like god, do require the suspension of the second law of thermodynamics so can be dismissed instantly

    Surely there could be a scientific explanation for ghosts that we just haven’t found yet.

    no. there are numerous scientific explanations for ghosts that have been found.

    most importantly, when someone describes something that happened, it’s fine to say “I can’t explain it” but to say it was a ghost simply translates as “not only can i not explain it but i am incapable of imagining anything beyond stories i’ve been fed by other gullible humans”

  13. When people talk about ‘enormous’ amounts of anecdotal evidence they don’t realise it weakens their case and here’s why: A few reports of an unusual event understandably may not have hard evidence, but when that event is reported happening often, we begin to wonder why there is no hard evidence. When such events are reported regularly, worldwide, over a period of decade when video cameras are carried all the time by 50% of the population, then the game is up.

  14. The unexplained is just that, the unexplained. Ghosts, UFO, ‘miracles’ all of these speak to the same gullibility and suspending disbelief humans engage in far too often based on the traditions and biases of people unwilling to critically examine what they’ve experience. Our human senses are certainly prone to error, and things like hallucinations, optical and auditory illusions and sleep paralysis which was mentioned earlier (which has also used to be a common explanation for demonic presence or possession) are just some examples.

    People come to this site with all manner of unexplained phenomena, either by not willing to accept the actual reason for it or simply not being able to figure out the event itself for whatever reason.

    Let’s ask the basic questions: What qualifies as a ghost? What properties is one said to possess? Are these properties demonstrable? And most importantly, are there other rational explanations to describe the events?

    The last question is key because when dealing with something one cannot explain, using ancient superstition (as ghosts, wights, spirits and shades of numerous varieties have been around in many cultures for a long time) has never turned out to be a valid reason. Superstition used to maintain that left handed people were marked by the devil, after all and what is now known as epilepsy used to be accepted as being possession by demons or spirits by people with no explanations. Ghosts are just one in a long line of superstitions we haven’t let go of.

    • In reply to #21 by achromat666:

      The unexplained is just that, the unexplained. Ghosts, UFO, ‘miracles’ all of these speak to the same gullibility and suspending disbelief humans engage in far too often based on the traditions and biases of people unwilling to critically examine what they’ve experience. Our human senses are certain…

      Like one Russian humorist said: you have read that there is a town regularly visited by Ufo’s? You have find the place of highest alcohol consumption in the particular region.

  15. I would say most of the genuine cases of these stories are non descript and vague. ‘I heard something’ or ‘I saw something out of the corner of my eye’. Usually there always vague. Or events coincide and a pattern of events are interpreted and assumptions are made.

    There is no evidence for any of this stuff. Surprisingly many of the modern showmen in this area are committed atheists , i.e Darren Brown.

    This has come up before and I confess I don’t know how an atheist can believe in Ghosts. If a person believes in Ghosts then why not God?

    Have a look at ‘The Demon Haunted World’ by Carl Sagan and as already pointed out Oliver Sacks has released many books that has something to say about this subject.

  16. Thank you for your (mostly) polite comments so far. Keep them coming. I’m happy to believe that I and others have been deluded. It is odd, though, for two people to have the same hallucination at the same time.

    • Hi from Vieux Lormont, a couple of Km. from you.. Check Pepper’s Ghost on the Web and you’ll find a convincing way of gulling stacks of people at the same time. Enjoy. In reply to #23 by Alexinpessac:

      Thank you for your (mostly) polite comments so far. Keep them coming. I’m happy to believe that I and others have been deluded. It is odd, though, for two people to have the same hallucination at the same time.

    • And, furthermore, would it change your perspective to consider ghosts little gods or God a big ghost?In reply to #23 by Alexinpessac:

      Thank you for your (mostly) polite comments so far. Keep them coming. I’m happy to believe that I and others have been deluded. It is odd, though, for two people to have the same hallucination at the same time.

  17. Alex:

    No intent to deride here, as I appreciate someone else’s interpretation of reality that’s different from mine. Lawd knows I’ve been wrong often enough! We are pattern sensing monkeys. That means that not only do we sometimes imagine patterns that don’t exist, but that we detect real patterns that we may not understand. Perception of ghosts might be functions of brain activity, or perhaps a weather phenomena or someone playing a trick. Or they could be some other thing for which we as yet have no working, supportable theory. The ideas of physics are fairly well supported, and so propositions of ghosts need to cross a high bar of explaining how they differ from what is physically explained. To get anywhere in the pursuit of knowledge we must make choices of what to accept and what to reject. Pure relativism — saying that anything is as likely as anything else leaves our attempt at knowledge without mass — with no Higgs boson, if you will, to anchor it to what we find actually occurring. On the other hand, if one attaches to the idea that this Higgs thingy is a complete representation of reality, then ‘reality becomes a fixed thing into which our experiences of dynamic life do not easily fit. Here’s a hint: Absolutes (probably) do not exist in nature.

    }}}}

    • Surely a simplification is to say that any apparent supernatural occurrence has any number of mundane explanations which are more likely than the supernatural.

      It is not possible to say that it was not a ghost, but isn’t it much more likely to be a dream, hallucination, practical joke or a simple trick of the light. Particularly as we know human perception and memory can be flawed.

      The supernatural explanation in all of these examples would require the most extraordinary evidence, which as has been pointed out, is lacking.

  18. Like you, i am an atheist who does not believe on God but has also had several encounters with ghosts. I do not think belief in ghosts and a disbelief in God are ideas that are contrary to one another.

    I believe that time does not flow and is made up of many separate instances of “now”, each one a self contained moment like the pages of an animated flip book.

    That what we perceive as ghost like activities are other events that are occurring in close proximity to our “now” and, like shuffling a deck of translucent playing cards reveals the ghostly traces of the others ones below.

    Well, that’s my theory anyway.

  19. Technically, under the current definition of atheist, you are correct; if you don’t believe in God you are an atheist. The interesting thing about this definition is the fact that I was no longer a theist at age 18 and have been, for the most part an atheist since. Yet, during this time I was also an agnostic and then a deist – specifically the “something out there” then “God is all. We are One” brand of deism. I never realized that the appropriate term was “deist” for my views. I still considered myself to be a theist though, I now realize I was not or at least not completely. In my honest opinion, this form of atheism is far from being a nonbeliever. God is no longer a “man” in the sky, creator of the universe, but an ethereal, nebulous “something” out there. When you consider Hinduism, Buddhism, new age, New Thought, God has a definition other than the Christian God. It seems to me that the term “atheist” is a bit incomplete with these religions and philosophies. Personally, I think the definition of atheism needs to be expanded to include all belief.

    With that said, I have had lots of bizarre paranormal experiences prior to my full deconversion. I have also had plenty of experiences afterwards. The funny thing is that I can now see how I try to make meaningful connections from random events and know that it is not supernatural. When you place importance on two random events seemingly linked, you tend to fooll yourself into thinking that they are something that they are not. We are pattern seeking creatures and I am exceptionally good at making comparisons, analogies and finding connections between two unrelated events. Find that connection, make it important, add emotions, stir in some reflection and deep thought and viola! You have a synchronicity or magical event.

    Here is the thing that I learned from my deconversion: I held onto my deeply felt anecdotal stories because they connected me to issues that were important in my life – the death of my mother, finding my own way, my career, making important decisions… I didn’t want to share them with others online because I was afraid that they’d punch holes into these cherished experiences. Through the work of Dan Dennett and understanding flaw in our own perceptions and logical fallacies, I was able to slowly come to terms with the elaborate ways that I fooled myself into thinking there was something mystical behind my experiences.

    The scientific explanation for ghosts is – that it is due to your pattern seeking brain. More than one person has seen the Virgin Mary in tree bark; that does not mean she is really there.

  20. “i am open to the existence of ghosts” is an admission that perhaps not everything in your world is materially based. that is a good thing because what we call matter is only a mental image fed by the senses into a brain the size of a cabbage. and what can a brain this size really know about the nature of the world? yet we have neo Darwinian dogmatists who assure us they have it all figured out yet cannot replicate even the simplest of living processes such as turning grass into milk or urine. the reason for this is that Darwinism does not rise above the Aristotelian kind of explanation for reality. “natural selection” and “it is in the nature of the thing” are essentially the same kind of explanation.
    i am surprised you find any inspiration in Dawkins, his books are a tedious hanging out of sponges. but there is no accounting for individual preferences.
    we have become so arrogant and assured in our science based knowledge that we have closed our minds to wonder and to the possibility of a world profoundly different then the one we think we know. yes, there are ghosts, spirits. the cosmos abounds in intelligent life not subject to the scrutiny of a microscope. if you believe that “time” and “chance”-Dawkin’s vapid deities- gave rise to life then move up the ladder of mind to something much more powerful and true. you have taken the first step. next ditch Dawkins and find someone worth reading.

    • In reply to #32 by sancho:

      “i am open to the existence of ghosts” is an admission that perhaps not everything in your world is materially based. that is a good thing because what we call matter is only a mental image fed by the senses into a brain the size of a cabbage. and what can a brain this size really know about the nat…

      Two things: 1. Arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. 2. If you don’t appreciate the writings of Richard Dawkins it’s your loss.

    • In reply to #32 by sancho:

      “i am open to the existence of ghosts” is an admission that perhaps not everything in your world is materially based…

      No it isn’t. But that’s not the point of my post.

      “… what we call matter is only a mental image fed by the senses into a brain the size of a cabbage. and what can a brain this size really know about the nature of the world?

      I don’t agree. You seem to be saying that brains are not capable of understanding the world, and that therefore the products of those brains should be ignored. This is simply a sophisticated version of the argument from ignorance – ‘I can’t see how human brains could be capable of understanding the natural world, so they can’t”. But it follows that any ideas that are the products of your own (cabbage-sized) brain are valid, or even more valid, than those of other brains.

      Don’t you find that arrogant as well as rude?

      However, if all you mean is than we should keep our minds open, then I suggest you watch the lecture posted at the start of this thread (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k) to see why that is flawed thinking.

    • Sancho,

      I’m not going to defend Dawkins here but I take issue with your view that believing in a material universe is somehow soulless and without wonder. I watched a youtube clip of Sean Hannity the other night and he was arguing that atheists were egotistic that they couldn’t ‘get’ that something bigger than themselves existed i.e God. I see your argument having parallels. It is only when we give up all this nonsense can we ever accept ourselves , that essentially we are little different , than each other , we have similar struggles and all share the same faith. It suggests that we don’t spend our lives deluding ourselves and make the best of what we got. In hard times we look to connect with people rather than to descend into a la la world whilst things get worse and dis-improve. You are fooling yourself mate if you think that non-belief is ego driven as you seem to be suggesting , it’s the opposite , it’s the acceptance that we are in some ways, irrelevant.

      In reply to #32 by sancho:

      “i am open to the existence of ghosts” is an admission that perhaps not everything in your world is materially based. that is a good thing because what we call matter is only a mental image fed by the senses into a brain the size of a cabbage. and what can a brain this size really know about the nat…

  21. I had things happen to me when I was a christian that I was convinced proved god, I’ve since been able to come up with reasonable explanations for all of them except 1 but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reasonable explanation, it just means I don’t know it. That’s what I thought when I read your comment. Since there were no details, we can’t speculate on any reasonable explanations such as a loose pipe in the wall rattling and therefore making some knick-knack on a shelf move or an electrical fault making the lights blink etc. One of the first things I had to come to terms with as an atheist was not knowing was acceptable, that really flew in the face of the old religious me and took some getting use to. Anyway that’s my 2 cents worth.

  22. I have observed people when they were hallucinating. Its fascinating and in the examples I saw consisted of a mix of misinterpreted experiences (that I shared, so likely to be real experiences) and entirely private experiences (that were either too subtle for me, or not real).

    Once you understand that your brain is making stuff up all the time to help maintain a sensation seamless reality yet save you the effort of paying attention to prosaic and commonplace things and also understand that you notice things mostly in response to expectations of what may happen, you can start to see the way that expectations may precipitate made up stuff.

    Thing is once we have an expectation, we tend to discount the myriad circumstantial pieces of information that play against this and accept only the affirmative circumstantial data. The feedback is positive (realised expectations become stronger) unless we are aware of these mental processes.

    I have advocated that schoolchildren should, as a matter of course be taught this kind of cognitive neuroscience. It could perhaps go in those otherwise feeble learning to learn categories my kids had to endure. How can we be confident of the quality of our (learning) experience? It should become commonplace knowledge the ways in which we can fool ourselves, misapprehend and confabulate experience, and reconstruct memories. If nothing else it could really cut down on domestic arguments….

    • In reply to #38 by phil rimmer:

      your brain is making stuff up all the time

      Thanks Phil for cutting to the core of it. Everyday reality is a fabrication. Sometimes the fabrication process has a glitch. I’m fond of optical illusions and other psychological tricks that reveal the imperfections in our fabrications. One might imagine that the glitches tell us more about the nature of reality (ie sometimes the unvarnished truth leaks in, ghosts and all), but I expect that they only tell us more about the nature of our fabrication engine, the workings of the brain and its sensory inputs.

      External reality, whatever it is, is bigger than the brain that fabricates your experience of it. Not getting mystical, just pointing out the obvious.

  23. Let me talk about a theory I have. I believe that one day science may invent a device which will be able to record the past. As we can do on a television set. I also believe that some where in the atmosfer there are recordings of the past which we need to record by inventing something to record them. A bit like transmitting pictures on a televison screen. These paranormal sightings which people see are those actural recordings. And no I do not believe in Ghosts demons or anything to do with paranormal happenings.

    • In reply to #41 by ikinmoore:

      That’s a novel idea. The OP observed a poltergeist his dad formerly enjoyed. Would your theory regard that as an atmospheric replay?

      Let me talk about a theory I have…some where in the atmosfer there are recordings of the past…paranormal sightings which people see are those actural recordings…

    • In reply to #41 by ikinmoore: Personally, I think you are onto something important. Some experiences I have made would fit into that model. For istance, I was sound asleep when a vivid illustration, movie-like, entered my mind. It was a serious car accident at a site I had visited a couple of weeks before. I saw the people inside the car, heard the driver say he could not break and then the car went off road. I could tell the numer of males and females. I woke up in terror with the feeling it was not an ordinary dream, but of course I could not be sure of that. Told my husband at the time, who later went to fetch the newspaper. He came back rather shocked. The front page described this absolutely horrible accident. Details were correct, number of victims and site of accident. I refuse to see this as non-natural, but I cannot explain it. Not at all. I live with the conviction that physics and neuronal science will one day explain it. Hope to live then.

      Let me talk about a theory I have. I believe that one day science may invent a device which will be able to record the past. As we can do on a television set. I also believe that some where in the atmosfer there are recordings of the past which we need to record by inventing something to record th…

      • In reply to #48 by Agge:

        In reply to #41 by ikinmoore: Personally, I think you are onto something important. Some experiences I have made would fit into that model. For istance, I was sound asleep when a vivid illustration, movie-like, entered my mind. It was a serious car accident at a site I had visited a couple of weeks…

        That might be more convincing if you’d gone into more detail about the accident, but number of victims and site of accident are pretty broad categories. There aren’t many people you can get into a car in the first place, and the number of possible male-to-female ratios are limited as a result (with just five people in the car, there are only thirty-two possible combinations of males and females).

        The number of locations you are personally familiar with, if you’ll pardon my assumptions here, are not likely to be that many, especially when considering candidates for road accidents to take place in. There’s also the possibility that you noticed the newspaper report or some inkling of news about it before the dream (or knew there were fast cars up there, or that it was a hotspot for accidents), but consciously forgot about it while your unconscious retained it until sleep came.

        I’m not trying to shoot down your experience, and I do acknowledge that you expect a rational explanation for it, but I think the key to understanding events like this is that it’s too tempting to assume that there’s a causal role at work here. But there need not be one at all. A one-in-a-million event can happen to just one person in a population of one million, and that’s just for one generation, one year, and one city. An event that occurs to only one in a billion people could have happened dozens or even hundreds of times in the last hundred years.

        There’s also the fact that non-coincidences can often be ignored: getting a double-six when you roll two dice on your first move, for instance, becomes less impressive when you fail to get it again the next thirty-five times. The number of times you dreamed of anything, much less a car accident, and nothing happened in reality would far outnumber the one-off you remember. If anything, we’d be very impressed if most, if not all, your dreams came true with astonishingly precise regularity and accuracy, and that’s precisely because it would be harder to write off such a reliable regularity as a fluke amid chaos.

        The number of possible coincidences increases the more opportunities there are for it to happen, whether because you’ve got more time for it to turn up or because there are lots of people for it to happen to. If you can think of two different chains of causes for each event on its own (note, for instance, that you had visited this location and would know it to a respectable degree), you’ve gone some way towards appreciating how they don’t necessarily demand any special explanation beyond coincidence. There is an explanation, even if only in the broadest terms (e.g. car accidents are a part of life in urbanized areas).

        • In reply to #49 by Zeuglodon:
          1. I don’t know who is reading so I’m not going into more details about the people inside the car, but there were specifics.
          2. It is not an urban area, rather the contrary. Very specific features there.
          3. Few inhabitants in the area.
          4. Specifics about the car model.
          5. Accident after I went to bed.
          6. A long way to go to get the paper.
          7. No sleep-walking. I usually sleep like a log and don’t get up until morning.
          8. Accident site about 600 km from sleeping site.
          9. Dream-time likely after paper produced.
          That’s it.
          This kind of experience is difficult to communicate entirely with regard to emotional impact. Quite different from ordinary dreams as I usually experience them.

          In reply to #48 by Agge:

          In reply to #41 by ikinmoore: Personally, I think you are onto something important. Some experiences I have made would fit into that model. For istance, I was sound asleep when a vivid illustration, movie-like, entered my mind. It was a serious car accident at a site I had…

          • In reply to #50 by Agge:

            So what are the odds of it happening? My point is not just that the dream and the accident have to be very accurate. They could be photographic in accuracy – though it would be hard for you to prove that – but if it’s only happened once or twice, it’s just as good to suggest it’s a statistical anomaly. Moreover, how it made you feel is irrelevant to its improbability. How can I be sure its vividness was not due to the fact that you later discovered it coincided with a real event? Come to that, how long ago did it occur? It wouldn’t be the first time memories have been distorted.

            I think if I had to sum up my point in one word, it would be: causation. No matter how strong the correlation you invoke for this one event, it doesn’t decisively pin down the causation behind it. I’m not saying the notion of some sort of recording of the past is inherently wrong. I’m saying that the idea can’t be given preferential treatment, as though it was the only way for that specific set of circumstances to come about. The notion of “recording of the past” has to be proven on its own before being applied to explain any particular case. Coincidence is a perfectly respectable alternative.

          • In reply to #51 by Zeuglodon:
            It is long ago but I wrote it down very soon after. I am not trying to prove anything here, just adding to speculations. I’m not a novice when it comes to statistics and probabilities. Rather the contrary. I know this experience is anecdotal and some others I have made are as well. I treasure those with witnesses and discard the rest. Anyway I would say correlation, fortuitous or not, rather than causation. By the way, I am not dreaming about accidents regularly, in fact I cannot remember any other accident dream. Not arguing, just telling.

            In reply to #50 by Agge:

            So what are the odds of it happening? My point is not just that the dream and the accident have to be very accurate. They could be photographic in accuracy – though it would be hard for you to prove that – but if it’s only happened once or twice, it’s just as good to sugges…

  24. I have seen apparition that could have been called The Black Monk, however I am epileptic and had very high fever then. The next time was when my neighbours had organized spice (herbal incense) party. My house has extremely good ventilation …. So much for the ghosts. Of course my experince does not prove anything but neither do the anecdotal stories about ghosts being real. Actually any person telling them should be checked for epilepsy, psychic disorders, Alcheimer’s, cerebral ischaemia, legal and illegal drugs, Type II diabetes, paraneoplastic syndrome….
    But meanwhile it is worth asking about the composition of the Ghost, ways how this matter or energy interacts with those of the human being, where do the Ghosts come from and where do they go….

  25. Hi I believe Ghost are rebellious Spirits or demons who hate God. I have heard these Spirits speak, I have also heard God speak, he has predicted future events, and given good direction for life, even telling me who to marry and it turned out as the best thing ever. Read my website that list the times that God has spoken to me at http://www.futureandahope.net/does_god_speak.php I often also hear demons and it is hard to distinguish between God, and the devil.

    • In reply to #53 by theGreatFuzzy:
      Perhaps, but there is no statistics available. I just think the odds for it to happen become quite low taking into account all the coincidences/details. That’s all. And I believe in a physical background of the phenomenon but I don’t think it is mystical, as I said before. Of course I cannot prove anything. I’m speculating.

      Isn’t it simply that it would be even more extraordinary if nobody ever had an experience like you did?

  26. It’s a good point. The logic would be Zeroth law of energy.. swap “matter” for “energy” as you can do with the mass energy thing and then find a way to measure the “life force”… I guess life force could be read as consciousness. The answers may be found from communicating with people in deep comas as a first step but the assumption is this “life force” is actually something associated with our classical and modern concept of physics. And hence you can see where some people then go on to talk about god.
    The scientific connection to “ghosts” is definitely not found yet. There is a chance, a very good chance that there is none. If I were a gambling man I’d go for no god and ghosts don’t exist. On the god side of things I think we can all agree that it’s simply stupid the way god is presented and because of this the people who present it cannot be taken seriously.
    The big danger is the word BELIEVE. You cannot BELIEVE in physics. It’s an empirical thing. I see, therefore I can explain it if I want to. You cannot “believe” in Unexplained Phenomena or ghosts as belief gives you a dogmatic approach. You need science and you need to be able to explain what you see.
    If you see it an nobody else does and you cannot repeat the event then, you best give Schroedingers’ cat another fish head without opening the box. There are lots of people earnestly chasing up ghosts and maybe one day they will be able to measure their energy. Chances are like trying to measure this energy presently is the same as trying to measure an electron with a tape measure. Chances are one day they may simply say, as Tom Robbins wrote “then fuck it, It can’t be done.”

  27. I am glad you asked the question as I have been pondering the very same thing.
    Being an atheist, I have never believed in the paranormal, but I cannot explain a few personal experiences.
    The first being when I was about 9 after a death in the family, and this was experienced by my mother and sister.
    Dharmic religions such as Buddhism/Hinduism/Sikhism (and I assume Jainism) say that the soul of a person my remain for up to 13 days until moving on. Although some may remain for a lot longer for various reasons.
    After a week or so, the activity stopped.
    My second experience was when I was 18, and also experienced by others.
    18 years have passed since then and I’ve had one minor experience in recent years.
    Being a computer scientist, I too try to find logic in my own experiences, and those of my family.
    Unfortunately, I have not been able to debunked my personal experiences, or come up with a vaguely viable explanation.
    Science requires observable physical evidence.
    Ghosts and such entities do not appear to be part of the physical world, so conventional science cannot explain it.
    The only explanation seems to be within pseudoscience and religion.
    Eg. Hindu/Sikh texts say that there are 8.4 million species of life on Earth (modern science indicates that there are 8.7 million species http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/aug/23/species-earth-estimate-scientists) and souls move from one to another until becoming one with god. Some do not move on to the next cycle and are what we refer to as ghosts. The following 2 clips kind of explain that from a religious point of view.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A22m9QzCEEs

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkTxSfZ2Uzo

    If one then removes the concept of god in this theory, one still has to acknowledge a soul which is essentially, a ghost.
    But if atheists acknowledge a soul, what happens to the souls that do not become ghosts.
    Unfortunately, after months of research, I have not come up with a good explanation and my continuous googling on the subject led me to this question. :-)

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