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lestatdelioncourt

Response to "no scientific evidence" of ghost

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sinewave

...can you give me a few titles, authors, etc?

It started off with a book my mother gave me for my 8th birthday called "The Answer Book". It was full of science questions for kids like "Is a rocket the same as a jet engine?". One of the questions was about ghosts. All of my reading after that was in magazines or borrowed books. A high school girlfriend had a library of belief oriented books of ghost stories that were supposedly true. The rest were from the collections of friends, relatives, and the local public library. I could not tell you any titles or authors because I don't own any of them. Oh, and our family Britannica set had several articles about the belief / phenomenon.

Cool. I take it you never experienced anything unusual?

Never, and not for a lack of trying. Nearly got arrested a few times though. Apparently the police frown on cemetery visits after dark.

Yes. Therefore, reports going back to ancient times do not convey believability. Therefore, reports of ball lightning going back to ancient times did not sway the scientific community—one good report by a physicist did.

Not in this case. It was similar enough to known atmospheric phenomena to not be too outrageous to believe. The tough part to accept was the relatively low altitudes at which they occur. Similar phenomena are seen at or above 10K feet.

About 35 years ago, the Hessdalen lights became very frequent and relatively easy to document. Also, around that time, the piezoelectric effect in seismically active areas became better known. Sudden low altitude lighting effects were seen just prior to tremors and quakes in areas with substantial layers of quartz.

Religions aren't the only places you find dogma. It exists wherever there are notions that go unquestioned, or assumptions that go unchallenged.

True but they are the mother lode.

You know, like the notion that ghost phenomena are inimical to scientific investigation?

What can I say? It's not like evidence is being hidden.

Or none of the above. And if they are hallucinations...what would explain multiple witnesses seeing the same hallucination in the same location, completely independently of each other? Even if people perceive "ghosts" via the same mechanism that they see hallucinations, there may be something else operating there...something we won't know about unless we study the subject.

One step at a time. Stick with the first 3 for now. :)

Yeah...no. No, they wouldn't—not if there's a preconceived notion that studying it is worthless or unscientific.

A little discipline and restraint would go a long way to help that. Unfortunately, they are in short supply among believers.

The "ghost busting community" is more about entertainment than investigation—at least, the ones who achieve any prominence are. And does the "conventional wisdom" they espouse say that most of the notions we have about ghosts are just guesses born in ignorance of actual information? Because that's the essence of what I was saying.

What would real investigators do differently?

You could have broken up your post into two, you know. I wouldn't have minded.

That's kind of you. :) It was such a mess and I lost track of which questions where being answered where and it was being rejected by the forum software so I just scuttled it. It was more than an hour of trying to give thoughtful responses so it sucked to have to do that.

And could you point me to some of this "familiar content?" As far as I know, I was coming up with those responses on my own. To be sure, I guessed that they were probably not wildly original, but I wouldn't have thought they were so common as to be old hat. I'd very much like to see where else they can be found.

All the things I listed. The common hows and whys of ghosts. Why are they believed?

Yes...because the subject is such a pariah to science that no serious researcher will touch it. How could there be anything but speculation at this point?

The idea is so heavily steeped in religious dogma, can you blame them? It's a no-win proposition.

First off, speculation is not the same as fantasy. If you'd said that "the paranormal is synonymous with speculation," we'd be having a very different conversation now.

Secondly...of course speculation exists where something is missing. That's why I'd like to see that thing stop being missing.

And that is why I'd like to see it become a science.

To be fair, speculation tends to be plausible. Most ghosts hypotheses are anything but.

It just takes evidence.

Now...let's just sum up what I think the problem is with research into ghost phenomena:

There's nothing there to peer review because no one is studying it scientifically. No one is studying it because it's considered unscientific. It's considered unscientific because centuries of myth-building have grown up around it. No scientist want to risk being painted with the "unscientific" brush. Therefore, no one is studying it scientifically.

Catch-22.

Yes, there is nothing to peer review because there is no demonstrable science. It's not so much the risk that keeps scientists away but rather the lack of a plausible discovery.

And now I doubt you've read and comprehended my post at all—because that's not remotely what I was saying.

Personally, I agree: so many witnesses could be wrong. I just want to find out if, in fact they are wrong; and if so, how are they wrong? Why are wrong? And what does it mean for human experience if this kind of perceptual wrongness remains so common?

These are important questions, and they need to be looked into...but they won't as long as this prejudice against the field goes on.

Well, if there is prejudice it is not without cause. Another way to look at it is there is just not enough evidence to convince anyone it is worth the effort.

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Avallaine

It started off with a book my mother gave me for my 8th birthday called "The Answer Book". It was full of science questions for kids like "Is a rocket the same as a jet engine?". One of the questions was about ghosts. All of my reading after that was in magazines or borrowed books. A high school girlfriend had a library of belief oriented books of ghost stories that were supposedly true. The rest were from the collections of friends, relatives, and the local public library. I could not tell you any titles or authors because I don't own any of them. Oh, and our family Britannica set had several articles about the belief / phenomenon.

It really sounds like you've mostly read popular and condensed accounts. Do you honestly think you've given the serious side of ghost investigation a fair hearing? Or have you just made generalizations based on the attention-getting antics of those who are more focused on entertainment and profit than actual investigation?

A little discipline and restraint would go a long way to help that. Unfortunately, they are in short supply among believers.

It sounds as though you're blaming the loud attention seekers for ghost phenomena's lack of respect in science. I believe it goes way, way farther back, to the Enlightenment; the close ties ghost phenomena have always had with religion meant that it was thrown out with the bathwater when Church influence finally crumbled. Ever since it broke with religion, science has had an arms-length approach to anything that even hits of anything to do with "spirit."

The dogma I'd most like to dispel is the one that says that ghost phenomena can only be evidence of the survival of the the soul. I've tried to explain why I believe they are not synonymous, but all you do is repeat that "most people say so." If all you're interested in is debating what "most people" say, I think we're at an impasse.

What would real investigators do differently?

You're kidding me, right? What wouldn't they do differently?

That's kind of you. :) It was such a mess and I lost track of which questions where being answered where and it was being rejected by the forum software so I just scuttled it. It was more than an hour of trying to give thoughtful responses so it sucked to have to do that.

Yeah, that's why I commonly copy the post into Word, answer it there, and then paste my answer back in the reply window. I've lost many a well-crafted reply when I accidentally hit the back button or something...

Yes, there is nothing to peer review because there is no demonstrable science. It's not so much the risk that keeps scientists away but rather the lack of a plausible discovery.

Well, it's nice that you can have that much faith in the scientific community. I, personally, can't forget that scientists are human beings, and heir to all the flaws that everyone else is: favoritism to pet theories, confirmation bias, preconceived notions, and knee-jerk rejection of new and strange ideas.

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Frank Merton

I didn't see the gorilla, and I have trouble crediting people who claim otherwise unless they were tipped off some way. It has to do with the way our visual apparatus works. You just simply won't see it.

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aquatus1

It really sounds like you've mostly read popular and condensed accounts. Do you honestly think you've given the serious side of ghost investigation a fair hearing?

What would be your recommendations for the serious side of ghost investigation?

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Frank Merton

As I see it ghosts (spirits of those who have died) is contrary to the prevailing "physicalist" or "materialist" view of the vast majority of modern scientists. I would say this is the ruling "paradigm," but I would appreciate it if I got that word off a bit: dictionaries are no help.

That means that scientists are not going to risk their careers investigating something they already know is nonsense. It would be like asking one to investigate moon rocks for evidence of the presence of cheese. Also, of course, a few have actually ventured into the area and come back empty-handed. Scientists don't waste their time investigating things already disproved.

So the field is left to two other groups: those with a different belief-set who really want to somehow prove science "wrong" (although, ironically, were they to succeed science would merely co-opt them and alter its belief-set accordingly -- science does this on rare occasions -- and whoever was responsible would go down in history as having been a great scientist). Then there are charlatans making money off it selling books and whatnot.

I personally think it is all a waste of time, not because I have a strong physicalist bias in my thinking, but because the reports have been around long enough with nothing convincing to the objective observer coming out of them that by now it is pretty plainly a mix of fraud, both venal and pious, superstition, delusion and over-active imaginations.

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sinewave

It really sounds like you've mostly read popular and condensed accounts. Do you honestly think you've given the serious side of ghost investigation a fair hearing? Or have you just made generalizations based on the attention-getting antics of those who are more focused on entertainment and profit than actual investigation?

I guess I've always just figured a ghost story is a ghost story. Something creepy happens and people get freaked out then then some seemingly beyond coincidence details are revealed to put a ribbon on it and it is referenced forever as evidence.

It sounds as though you're blaming the loud attention seekers for ghost phenomena's lack of respect in science. I believe it goes way, way farther back, to the Enlightenment; the close ties ghost phenomena have always had with religion meant that it was thrown out with the bathwater when Church influence finally crumbled. Ever since it broke with religion, science has had an arms-length approach to anything that even hits of anything to do with "spirit."

The Catholic church has a long history of stifling scientific advancements. Both Copernicus and Galileo were forced to recant their findings because they conflicted with geocentricism. Science and religious dogma are frequently at odds.

The dogma I'd most like to dispel is the one that says that ghost phenomena can only be evidence of the survival of the the soul. I've tried to explain why I believe they are not synonymous, but all you do is repeat that "most people say so." If all you're interested in is debating what "most people" say, I think we're at an impasse.

Well then, enlighten me. :)

You're kidding me, right? What wouldn't they do differently?

Walk me though how a real investigation would go.

Yeah, that's why I commonly copy the post into Word, answer it there, and then paste my answer back in the reply window. I've lost many a well-crafted reply when I accidentally hit the back button or something...

Did something similar with the last post. The forum editor is not the best.

Well, it's nice that you can have that much faith in the scientific community. I, personally, can't forget that scientists are human beings, and heir to all the flaws that everyone else is: favoritism to pet theories, confirmation bias, preconceived notions, and knee-jerk rejection of new and strange ideas.

It is not perfect but it works. Thats why there is peer review and the rest of the scientific due process. Yes, there are failings and abuses but it would be a lot worse without the protocols.

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Frank Merton

I use to have this problem (losing everything or other weird things happening when my finger slips off the intended key). I don't think it's the editor. When I downloaded an add on to Firefox (the browser I use) that allows me to kill most of the "hot keys," the problems stopped.

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Avallaine

I didn't see the gorilla, and I have trouble crediting people who claim otherwise unless they were tipped off some way. It has to do with the way our visual apparatus works. You just simply won't see it.

Well, of course, I was tipped off by the page title. But I think I'd have a good chance of spotting it anyway, as I'm easily distracted; I noticed it first because I "lost count" of the passes and re-focused on the larger picture to try to get my bearings.

Now, mind you, if the "assigned task" had been something more interesting to me than just counting ball-passes, I doubt I'd have noticed a dozen gorillas. While I'm normally easily distracted, when I really get into something, I become so hyper-focused that I'm blind to most things going on around me. (My mom actually had my hearing tested when I was a toddler, because if I was playing on my own I wouldn't hear her call my name. Turned out my hearing was just fine; I was just "in my own little world" sometimes... ^_^ ) If that had been the case, though, I wouldn't have been surprised to find out I'd missed the gorilla; I'm used to the fact that I miss all kinds of details when I'm concentrating.

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Avallaine

What would be your recommendations for the serious side of ghost investigation?

Things published by actual investigators for other investigators (rather than for the public)...like reports from the Society for Psychical Research and its American version, and other organizations. (Basically, stuff that's expensive and hard to find. :rolleyes: ) Many of these things I ran across in libraries' reference sections, and they weren't available to check out. I just read or skimmed them while I was there; I apologize for not keeping track of actual titles and authors.

As for more easily acquired sources...

I recently finished Hauntings and Apparitions: An Investigation of the Evidence by Andrew Mackenzie; it was published in 1982 for the 100th anniversary of the SPR, and is a good overview of the older investigations. I found it at my local used bookstore, and it was more than worth the purchase.

The Poltergeist by William G. Roll

On the Track of the Poltergeist by D. Scott Rogo

Also used-bookstore finds. Granted, poltergeist phenomena isn't necessarily related to ghost phenomena, but I feel there's enough overlap (some hauntings exhibit poltergeist-like activity, and some poltergeist reports involve apparitions) that the information in these is useful.

...perusing my bookshelf makes me realize that a lot of my collection is rather outdated now. Alas, I haven't had the free money or free time to read and acquire books like I used to; so I'm afraid I can't help with more recent publications. (I'm rather fond of Lloyd Auerbach as an author, but I wouldn't categorize his work as "serious" exactly; they're just the most recent books I've encountered that didn't seem completely spurious.)

At this point I usually also recommend skeptical books (Kaplan's The Amityville Horror Conspiracy, etc.), but I imagine you're probably already familiar with most of what I could mention there. B)

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Avallaine

I guess I've always just figured a ghost story is a ghost story. Something creepy happens and people get freaked out then then some seemingly beyond coincidence details are revealed to put a ribbon on it and it is referenced forever as evidence.

I can't believe you actually offered that seriously. That's what happens in TV series like A Haunting. That thing is to serious research the same thing that Ancient Aliens is to anthropology.

The Catholic church has a long history of stifling scientific advancements....Science and religious dogma are frequently at odds.

...which sometimes makes the scientific community overlook its own dogmas. If dogma is thought of as being a religious phenomenon, then secular institutions will have a harder time recognizing dogma in their own teachings.

Well then, enlighten me. :)

Well, one alternative model is that people in haunted locations are picking up information psychically about past events or persons—that something in the environment causes such information to be more readily stored or accessed than in other places. That would account for a great deal of ghost phenomena without bringing spiritual survival into the matter at all.

The important thing is to figure out if these strange phenomena are really happening; once we figure that out, then we can work on "why" and "how." If you're too afraid of the possible "whys" of something to even investigate the "ifs," you'll remain in ignorance...deliberate ignorance, which must surely be one of the worst "sins" of the scientific worldview.

If something happens, it's worth investigating, because everything in the universe is interrelated.

Walk me though how a real investigation would go.

Okay...take what I said about battery-drainage being a good place to start objective research?

Find several locations with haunting reports including battery drainage. Test half a dozen models of batteries from common electronics (flashlights, cameras, phones, mp3 players, etc) to learn their average lifespan at constant usage in locations not thought to be haunted.

Now place devices with batteries at the haunted locations, and at several non-haunted but otherwise similar locations and repeatedly test how long they last at constant usage. Do this for several weeks and then analyze the results to establish if batteries do, indeed drain faster in certain places. If they do, repeat the experiments while you monitor all locations and keep a record of any "haunted activity" to see if there's any correlation between battery life and strange events in those haunted locations.

You can see how this sort of approach wouldn't exactly be prime-time entertainment.

It is not perfect but it works. Thats why there is peer review and the rest of the scientific due process. Yes, there are failings and abuses but it would be a lot worse without the protocols.

It works, but like all long-established institutions, it's susceptible to becoming bogged down in its own traditions and getting complacent with its own successes...which keeps it from working to its full potential.

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sinewave

I can't believe you actually offered that seriously. That's what happens in TV series like A Haunting. That thing is to serious research the same thing that Ancient Aliens is to anthropology.

I guess we have not read the same ghost stories. :)

...which sometimes makes the scientific community overlook its own dogmas. If dogma is thought of as being a religious phenomenon, then secular institutions will have a harder time recognizing dogma in their own teachings.

Again, the scientific community has some pockets of dogma but religion is 100% dogma.

Well, one alternative model is that people in haunted locations are picking up information psychically about past events or persons—that something in the environment causes such information to be more readily stored or accessed than in other places. That would account for a great deal of ghost phenomena without bringing spiritual survival into the matter at all.

The important thing is to figure out if these strange phenomena are really happening; once we figure that out, then we can work on "why" and "how." If you're too afraid of the possible "whys" of something to even investigate the "ifs," you'll remain in ignorance...deliberate ignorance, which must surely be one of the worst "sins" of the scientific worldview.

If something happens, it's worth investigating, because everything in the universe is interrelated.

You would first have to demonstrate that psychic abilities exist and then that a place can preserve psychic images.

Okay...take what I said about battery-drainage being a good place to start objective research?

Find several locations with haunting reports including battery drainage. Test half a dozen models of batteries from common electronics (flashlights, cameras, phones, mp3 players, etc) to learn their average lifespan at constant usage in locations not thought to be haunted.

Now place devices with batteries at the haunted locations, and at several non-haunted but otherwise similar locations and repeatedly test how long they last at constant usage. Do this for several weeks and then analyze the results to establish if batteries do, indeed drain faster in certain places. If they do, repeat the experiments while you monitor all locations and keep a record of any "haunted activity" to see if there's any correlation between battery life and strange events in those haunted locations.

You can see how this sort of approach wouldn't exactly be prime-time entertainment.

To even begin using battery life as an indicator several controls would have to be applied. First, battery life is affected by temperature and to a lesser degree humidity. A well designed experiment would include battery life data charted across a range of temperatures and humidities. Attempting to maintain constant temperature and humidity during the tests is also possible but a lot less practical.

Second, battery life in any device is largely a function of how that device is used. A digital audio recorder will use more power when encoding complex audio input than it would recording silence.

You also have to consider the shelf age of the batteries and the fact that really fresh batteries will tend to last longer than batteries that may have been in a warehouse for a year before they were sold. There are a lot of potential variables.

Given all of that, you then have to make a statistical model for battery life for each device under identical working conditions. Enough trials will establish a distribution that can be considered normal. All trails should be included in the final data even test runs where battery life was very short.

It works, but like all long-established institutions, it's susceptible to becoming bogged down in its own traditions and getting complacent with its own successes...which keeps it from working to its full potential.

However, paranormal testing schemes tend to add dogma to the equation.

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Angel1510

As I see it ghosts (spirits of those who have died) is contrary to the prevailing "physicalist" or "materialist" view of the vast majority of modern scientists. I would say this is the ruling "paradigm," but I would appreciate it if I got that word off a bit: dictionaries are no help.

That means that scientists are not going to risk their careers investigating something they already know is nonsense. It would be like asking one to investigate moon rocks for evidence of the presence of cheese. Also, of course, a few have actually ventured into the area and come back empty-handed. Scientists don't waste their time investigating things already disproved.

So the field is left to two other groups: those with a different belief-set who really want to somehow prove science "wrong" (although, ironically, were they to succeed science would merely co-opt them and alter its belief-set accordingly -- science does this on rare occasions -- and whoever was responsible would go down in history as having been a great scientist). Then there are charlatans making money off it selling books and whatnot.

I personally think it is all a waste of time, not because I have a strong physicalist bias in my thinking, but because the reports have been around long enough with nothing convincing to the objective observer coming out of them that by now it is pretty plainly a mix of fraud, both venal and pious, superstition, delusion and over-active imaginations.

You really are a Buddhist? lol

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Avallaine

I guess we have not read the same ghost stories. :)

No, not quite. :P Well, actually, I've read plenty of those kind of ghost stories, too; but I consider them "modern folklore" rather than "paranormal research."

Again, the scientific community has some pockets of dogma but religion is 100% dogma.

That's not actually the case. Having once been in the materialist/atheist mindset myself, I totally understand why you would feel that way, but...ah, never mind; this isn't really the thread to discuss that further.

You would first have to demonstrate that psychic abilities exist and then that a place can preserve psychic images.

In order to prove that were the case, yes; I merely offered it as a model that does not contain spiritual survival.

To even begin using battery life as an indicator several controls would have to be applied.... [snip]

Yes, absolutely; all that would be included in the testing parameters.

However, paranormal testing schemes tend to add dogma to the equation.

Given what your sources seem to have been, I can see where you'd get that impression.

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Frank Merton

You really are a Buddhist? lol

I think when you die and your spirit leaves your body, it is "disembodied." As a result it would be unable to make its presence known. Nothing to do it with. That at least seems to me the most likely.

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Angel1510

I think when you die and your spirit leaves your body, it is "disembodied." As a result it would be unable to make its presence known. Nothing to do it with. That at least seems to me the most likely.

What do you think the spirit consists of? It might be easier to trace it if we know what we dealing with.

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Frank Merton

What do you think the spirit consists of? It might be easier to trace it if we know what we dealing with.

What do we consist of? Atoms I suppose one might answer, but what are they? Little bundles of energy clusters we call particles. What is that?
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Angel1510

So, in theory, the spirit should be detectable or provable by scientific method? The more you think about it, the more confusing it becomes.

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Frank Merton

So, in theory, the spirit should be detectable or provable by scientific method? The more you think about it, the more confusing it becomes.

I doubt it or we would have detected it by now. I infer its existence from the existence of sentient minds that seem to need physical bodies to do physical things.
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aquatus1

How are we defining the behaviour of spirits? Is it just a person without a body?

How would the existence of a spirit correlate to brain damage?

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Frank Merton

How are we defining the behaviour of spirits? Is it just a person without a body?

How would the existence of a spirit correlate to brain damage?

Oh this is a big affair to try to answer satisfactorily here. Obviously brain damage interferes with mind function, so we have to conclude that a given mind needs brain. Then there is the Cartesian dualism issue of how brain moves spirit and how spirit moves brain. I see no way to respond to all this. I leave it as unknown.

Still, as has been said, I know my mind exists, not as a thing but as a process, and I know it is independent of my brain, although the two are in constant interaction. Were I to become mentally ill from some brain disease, I have no idea what that does to mind, except perhaps render it unable to function for awhile -- it seems to need brain. When I die though obviously it has to seek quarters elsewhere. That it dies with the brain is perhaps possible, even probable. I don't think so though.

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third_eye

does 'unknown' always equates 'non-existence' in Science ?

DIMITRIOS S. PATELIS, Assistant Professor,Department of Sciences. Technical University of Crete.

ON THE CONTINUING VALIDITY OF THE HERACLITUS’ DIALECTICS

Dialectics teaches one to look beyond the immediate, to penetrate beyond the appearance of stability and calm, and to see the seething contradictions and ceaseless movement that lies beneath the surface. Modern dialectics organically combines the laws governing the development of being and the laws of cognition. Contradiction is the motive force and source of all development — development by passage of quantitative changes into qualitative ones,interruption of gradualness, leaps, negation of the initial moment of development and negation of this very negation, and repetition at a higher level of some of the features and aspects of the original state. The revolutionary substance of dialectics, which does not tolerate the slightest stagnation or immobility, makes it an instrument to assess objectively the logic of history for the practical reconstruction of society.

  • Academia Edu link (pdf document available for download)

~

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aquatus1

Not so much "non-existence" as "irrelevant", and only in terms of phenomena.

Edited by aquatus1

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sinewave

does 'unknown' always equates 'non-existence' in Science ?

No, it means unknown. The problem is, many insist that unknown = paranormal.

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Frank Merton

We can speculate about unknown things, and it is philosophy. Most of what falls into "paranormal" is not really unknown but just misinterpreted or worse.

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third_eye

No, it means unknown. The problem is, many insist that unknown = paranormal.

or ' unknown = paranormal = supernatural ' ?

We can speculate about unknown things, and it is philosophy. Most of what falls into "paranormal" is not really unknown but just misinterpreted or worse.

Oh Frank ... you simply must give us sources after saying something like that ... for example ?

~

Edited by third_eye

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