Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

This is a rewritten version of an earlier post –

These three phenomena cover a wide array of activities and beliefs but share the same broad sense that they break away from what could be considered to be ‘natural’ and move towards trying to produce or support events that cannot be explained unless there is an unsupported theory behind the curtain. They use a selection of common defences in order to make sure of their own continuation, these are claims that are often made outside of the sorts of other logic and reasoning that perhaps every other part of our lives are subjected to. If I were to claim that I was in fact the best stock broker in the world (I know that in these times of financial melt down that most likely is not a difficult claim to make) then you would expect me too to back it up with at least something. If however, I were to claim to have the ability to speak to a family member of yours who has died, if I were really good at reading you and had been through some sort of education which might include Barnum statements & showmanship, I could actually make you believe that I was doing it. Based not on my actual ability but because you are vulnerable (primed even) and you were brought up in a society where even the slight possibility of these things being real means something to you! These three things which I will refer to as general superstitions rely on at least these five common defences that have to be in place or they will simply fail. There are two wider questions; are such superstitions true (the answer is no) and why do they even exist at all, of course these have very complex answers. Part of the reason behind this post was a promotional video for the Centre of Inquiry which describes superstition as ‘uneducated answers’ and how science makes it possible to have educated ones. Still I think it should go further; superstitions are failures in reasoning, as René Descartes promoted – reason & rationality are the sources of truth and the guarantors of progress.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/superstition/the-common-defences-used-by-superstitions-religion-and-sometimes-conspiracy-theories-rational-thinking-pushed-aside/

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When you first enter the discussion of the concepts of induction and deduction there is a confusing analogy that has to do with swans, I will try my best to steer away from this since it never really makes it clear at all. Still this is my case to why Ghost Hunters the TV show, something which claims to promote the idea of scientific investigation, never uses the same model as science at all. It thus can be taken that ghost hunters should never be given the weight of objective knowledge which science hopes to produce. You might have never watch the show, in which case you can apply this to many other areas, since the idea is what constitutes science and what does not, you can see how other things that claim to be scientifically valid might not be. Ghost hunters, you might be saying, why did I pick this? Well, you might not know the show still you know the notion of ghosts, you understand more than you think. You know science can’t prove it, you know they are scary, and you most likely know what the movie white noise is about, or any other movie where ghosts appear or move things. With knowing all these things I can use it to highlight how science is different, it is perhaps one of the most stable concepts I could use! Science is seen as providing a useful set of knowledge that is not only helpful it also relates closely with the true reflection of how things are. So for something or someone to claim that something is scientific they are saying that it is true and valuable, these are big claims to make. It also makes real scientific findings less useful since making such claims that don’t turn out to be true chips away at the real objective knowledge that has been created. I won’t be arguing about the evidence since at a certain level it does not really make a difference on this topic.


Science is not just induction, a process of logic, it means much more than that and it includes a series of reasoned thinking and methods. From this reasoned process, facts are produced such as under specific condition an event is likely to happen, under the label of reliability the event must happen again and again within these conditions before it then can be taken to be fact. This is one of the reasons why the method of experiments are published with the results and conclusions, so you can see this reasoned process and make judgements to how reasoned it actually is. Still the problem is how to we get from these facts and make them useful, this process is called induction. From the facts of reliable experiments we can apply them into the useful, valid and well known benefits of science which I am sure you are aware of! Let’s go to ghost hunters and deduction before we carry on. In ghost hunters they try to prove that ghost exist and are real, they used technology in an attempt to capture ‘ghosts’ and then they use this as evidence. The type of evidence they use which I like the most is EVPs, electronic voice phenomenon, whereby they place a voice recorder down either letting it run or asking questions where the answers are recorded, not heard out loud. Once these responses are heard via playing back the voice recorder it is taken that the place they are investigating is haunted or has paranormal events going on. Let’s take the assumption of the leap between voices heard and ghosts/paranormal events as a true and reasonable jump to make. This leads us all to the statement that a positive EVP event n means a result ghost/paranormal n, where n can be any number of experiences. This is an incorrect logical statement to make, since an EVP event does not necessarily ever mean that there are ghosts around answering or talking. EVPs by themselves can never prove anything, they might be the result of interference by radio signals and if EVPs are dismissed on these bases then this is a value judgment based on other things. You can’t get from EVP event n to statement to make a general statement that EVP must denote ghosts.

The debunking thing is also a really big issue on Ghost Hunters, where if people tell the team about events they think are the result of ghost the team see if anything else could have caused them. This was the case when the team recorded a door opening and closing of its own will, they went back to the door to see if a breeze could have caused it or perhaps the level of humidity expanded the wood. In the true fashion of Sherlock Holmes this is deduction, since we can deduct from the door event that if a known set of factors are not present & causing the door to open and close by itself, then we must deduce that ghosts are responsible for this. This does however, have some serious faults even though it can seem like a reasonable step of logic, the main fault is that it makes the assumption that the ghost hunting team know all possible reasons behind non-ghost door opening and closing. Let me make that a little clearer using the example of Bertrand Russell; if a turkey is fed everyday at 9am for weeks on end the turkey might deduce that ‘I get fed everyday at 9am’, that is if turkeys could speak and deduce! This is a wrong deduction since a couple of days before Christmas the turkey was killed and then later eaten. My argument is that both Ghost Hunters and the turkey were/are wrong since they might be missing one piece of information that later proves false the deduction, this weakens the whole argument that is presented by ghost hunters. The problem is not with deduction as a method of logic; it is a problem with the method to which deduction is applied to known bodies of knowledge. The mode of deduction is well known, so now let’s move to the idea of induction, something which is what science uses as its main source of applying known facts to the general.

www.biografiasyvidas.com - Aristoteles father of LogicInduction in science is the reverse of deduction, rather than starting with what we know, what happens is that we learn from a series of events happening within a certain set of conditions and it goes towards the top level of knowledge. Of course, it is not that simple and there are three conditions to which must be applied in order for particular events to achieve status at the top level of knowledge or create a general theory. The first is that the number of events occurring within the condition must be extensive, the second that this event must occur within a slightly different set of conditions (to test the boundaries) and last of all no observation must produce a different event. Let me put this into a context, if I wanted to know what would make people punch me or attack me physically in some manner not really depending on who that person is, I would first have to have some inspiration about the topic. I might go read some books that are roughly relevant to the topic, from this I would get a general idea to how I would go about experimenting and finding the information I need in order to create a general law. Perhaps this information would be something like I must attack first and then just stand in front of that person. What I need to do is then go around doing this and even if it works 100% of the time, this is still not enough. I need other people to do the same thing and many times, once all the results are in & we can see that it works 100% of the time we can create the general law, as long as there any event where my theory is not falsified and is untrue in a set of conditions. If it is, then I must adapt or drop my theory, still if it holds true then we can thank induction for this. Of course, this is not true I just made it up. Still what happens once we get the general laws, we can then do something clever and use deduction in order to make them useful.

You might at this moment think that both Ghost Hunters and science results from the same form of deduction in the end, even if the information is form another way should this really be considered to be so different? The answer is yes, even though science uses deduction in the end to get from the general laws to predicting particular events, the information that has been created is so different it changes the nature of deduction. Scientific induction creates the knowledge in such a way, very unlike the deduction of ghost hunters, that things can be proven to be wrong, this creates accountability within the method of using deduction from scientific induction. I will illustrate this; when the door opened and closed in ghost hunters the type of deduction used meant that once all known things are removed from the situation then the ending result means it is ghost activity. There are no balances or checks involved within this and it can mean that the ending conclusion has no real meaning or truth behind it; this means it is easy to disagree on the grounds of bad logic. Let’s now turn to science and the deductive statement that aspirin can remove a headache, this came from a body of inductive knowledge, it was independently checked and if an event was found to be in violation of the particular body of knowledge that it came from then this will be related back to that knowledge changing it in the process. The body of knowledge that the ghost hunters use is common experience, the things that they know from what has happened to them, each other and the things that they can think of. Ghost Hunters might claim that they are doing their investigations from a scientific approach; still this idea has to be rejected.

In the Ghost Hunting episode ‘child Haunting & Sutcliff House’ one of the main men said that there are degrees of being scientific, this is not the case. Either something follows the rules of science so it should be considered scientific or it does not, there are no degrees about it. There is something else about scientific induction which is also ignored, the idea that predictions must be present in order to validate the conclusions that are made. If these predictions are made and then proven false this should create feedback, if this feedback is denied then it should never be considered as science. The only conclusion I make about the ghost hunters team is they are professional, they are allowed to present themselves as so, although when it comes to scientific this comes with responsibility. This claim is unfounded and they should never make it! Having said that science is not perfect, I am referring to real science now, if you have ever read about falsificationism then you are well aware of these problems. There are also arguments against the idea of induction, since they are more complex I won’t really go into them here, although be aware they are there.

www.akademika.noA little more on this matter…

If you are interested in this area then I suggest a great book called “what is this thing called science?” (ISBN 0-335-20109-1) which covers all the issues I’ve discussed here and a lot more, so if you ever wanted to actually know what science is then this is the book for you.


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