Has any supernatural event been 'proven'?


by Doc Brown
Tags: event, proven, supernatural
Doc Brown
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Dec16-04, 10:53 AM
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I know that things like poltergeists, ghosts and the afterlife (whether you believe in them or not) belong in the supernatural realm because they aren't proven, but on Sky TV you come across documentaries where they have so-called specialists who claim to be using special equipment which shows the presence of these 'spirits' ...

But is it real?

These programmes tend to put it across as fact. And I saw one programme which documented a family who had a violent poltergeist in their home. Tables and chairs would fly across the room...lights would switch on and off...pans would crash down off shelves, etc etc. The family were terrified and called in some so-called experts who discovered that a man who had lived in the house had died suddenly in some horrific way...I can't remember the exact details but this 'expert' managed to stop this stuff happening in the end, once they had found out the reason this spirit was upset and addressed the problem and "helped him on his way"

Then there are the God Channels which feature supposed miracle workers who say they are doing Gods work, on a stage in America, with audiences of thousands, all screaming with joy as these 'miracle workers' shout and wail and grab hold of folks heads and chests and seem to cure sick/disabled/blind people right there in front of millions of people!



Surely, if any of this stuff could be proven (and that shouldn't be hard if what we are seeing is true), then once and for all the entire world would KNOW that God was real and the afterlife existed.

If it cannot be proven then how can they get away with showing this rubbish...if it's not real then these 'Miracle Workers' are con men and should surely go to jail. Are they willing to be put to the test?? Has any of this paranormal stuff been put to the test in recent years?
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honestrosewater
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Dec16-04, 01:12 PM
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Atoms are supernatural.

( )
hypnagogue
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Dec16-04, 02:53 PM
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Quote Quote by Doc Brown
Surely, if any of this stuff could be proven (and that shouldn't be hard if what we are seeing is true), then once and for all the entire world would KNOW that God was real and the afterlife existed.
Not necessarily. Let's just assume for the moment that there really was something beyond physical ken going on in that poltergeist story you mentioned, and there was a way we could discover this. So we have an established supernatural effect; from here, our theoretical options for making sense of it are the set of all metaphysical possibilities that are consistent with this effect. The set of possible explanations for poltergeist phenomena is not limited to afterlife/ghost interpretations. For instance, if we assume that the family in the poltergeist house had some kind of latent telekinetic powers, this hypothesis would be consistent with the evidence as well. So we still wouldn't be able to decide, from this incident alone, between undead spirits or telekinesis as the underlying cause.

That's just a note on what we would be able to deduce if such supernatural effects truly did exist. I'll let the devoted skeptics here propound on their thoughts about the actual validity of such things.

Ivan Seeking
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Dec16-04, 03:43 PM
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Has any supernatural event been 'proven'?


I think part of the problem is the question of what constitutes proof.

Many years ago I saw footage [film I think but it may have been video] from an investigation of a haunted house in Los Angeles. The investigative team was a respectable team of graduates and a professor from UCLA; I don't remember what department but it involved quite a few people. They set up cameras and equipment all around the house and left it running [in total] for several days and nights. The whole thing was allegedly run as any other science experient; with all of the rigor to withstand peer review. At one point, just a clear as day, with no one in the house and the entire room in view, one could see a toy car running all around the room by itself. The footage wasn't fuzzy or dark. There were no indications of anything odd and the car was in focus. I thought, well, that's it! They got proof.

I never heard another thing. No claims of fraud. No claims of proof. Nothing. I have come to suspect that peer pressure stifles results like this. We can't prove that the film wasn't faked. That's at least part of the problem IMO. I have seen an awful lot of this stuff, from the least to the most credible, and I believe that I have seen things on film and tape that can't be explained. But, less the obvious or debunked hoaxes, there is no way to tell with any degree of certainty what, if anything, is genuine.
Phobos
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Dec16-04, 03:44 PM
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Quote Quote by Doc Brown
I know that things like poltergeists, ghosts and the afterlife (whether you believe in them or not) belong in the supernatural realm because they aren't proven, …
Just a note….”Unproven” does not equate with “supernatural”. Supernatural would mean something that is outside the known natural processes of the universe. For example, if real, Bigfoot and alien life would not be supernatural things (they would be just another species for science to study) but things like ghosts and miracle events would be supernatural. If something thought to be supernatural is found to be real & explainable by natural causes, then we could then adjust our view of what is “natural”.

These programmes tend to put it across as fact.
Watch out for such documentaries. They present 1 side of the story and make it flashy (creative editing, dramatizations, twisting the truth, etc.) so it seems very convincing. Be sure to listen to the other side of the debate & then make your decision about it.

Also watch out for anecdotes (people’s stories, which is an unreliable source of info) vs. actual evidence (which can be verifiable).

For stuff like faith healers, you really need to consider how much of that is internal psychology vs. external miracle. Those are mass audiences of true believers (people who already convinced of the miracle before it happens) worked up into a state of excitement.

Surely, if any of this stuff could be proven (and that shouldn't be hard if what we are seeing is true),
It can be tough to prove scientifically because essentially you would have to prove that there is no possible natural explanation for whatever event you’re studying (proving a negative).

then once and for all the entire world would KNOW that God was real and the afterlife existed.
Absolute knowledge of that would be great. But, IMHO, it seems to be left to personal faith/experience and not something provable in an objective sense.

If it cannot be proven then how can they get away with showing this rubbish...
Because many people believe it. If pressed into a legal corner, the claims usually shift from “it’s truth” to “it’s just entertainment”.

if it's not real then these 'Miracle Workers' are con men and should surely go to jail.
It happens. Miss Cleo recently got in legal trouble for her con (IIRC, it was regarding billing abuses for her 1-900 number).

Are they willing to be put to the test??
Sometimes, especially if the test is on their terms. They are less willing to submit to an objective scientific test.

Has any of this paranormal stuff been put to the test in recent years?
Certainly. Check out James Randi’s website. Also check into Michael Shermer’s essays. (available on the internet)
Ivan Seeking
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Dec16-04, 03:49 PM
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Note that in the "Randi up the ante thread", I just posted an example of someone to whom Randi should owe $1,000,000.
honestrosewater
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Dec16-04, 05:31 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking
We can't prove that the film wasn't faked.
How can you prove that any experiment wasn't faked? How do you know Galileo didn't fake his experiments?
hypnagogue
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Dec16-04, 06:54 PM
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Quote Quote by honestrosewater
How can you prove that any experiment wasn't faked? How do you know Galileo didn't fake his experiments?
Well, you could try Galileo's falling bodies experiment yourself if you're not convinced that he didn't fake it. It's a lot more difficult to repeat an experiment under unusual or poorly understood conditions, like the poltergeist one Ivan referred to, thus it's more difficult to verify, thus people will naturally be more skeptical of the results. It also doesn't help that the results here seem to fly in the face of our understanding of the world. It's always tougher to get people to accept results that they wouldn't normally expect.
honestrosewater
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Dec16-04, 08:31 PM
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It's a lot more difficult to repeat an experiment under unusual or poorly understood conditions, like the poltergeist one Ivan referred to, thus it's more difficult to verify, thus people will naturally be more skeptical of the results.
Are there other phenomena that faced similar problems, but have overcome them? Like tornadoes, rare medical conditions, subatomic particles, etc.?
selfAdjoint
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Dec16-04, 09:05 PM
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Quote Quote by honestrosewater
Are there other phenomena that faced similar problems, but have overcome them? Like tornadoes, rare medical conditions, subatomic particles, etc.?
Meteorites in the past, and ball lightning today.
Janitor
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Dec16-04, 10:26 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking
... one could see a toy car running all around the room by itself...
Before the filming began, somebody with access to the inside of the room placed a remote-control toy car under a bed. Maybe the person draped a lightweight cloth item over the car to provide extra camouflage. During filming, the person gets into position a lot or two away with a remote control, which he uses blindly in a more-or-less random way to make the car come out from under the bed and then into view of a camera.

This reminds me for some reason of a party trick. Start bragging about this fellow you know who can see playing cards remotely. The others at the party are doubtful.

"Okay, let's just see if I am blowing smoke. Here's a deck of cards. Somebody--anybody, pick a card out of the deck and tell us what the card is."

After the card is announced as a Three of spades [or whatever it turns out to be], you dial the phone number where the remote viewer fellow can be reached. The folks at the party hear only your end of the conversation, which goes like this: "Hello... [pause] Sir, I have some people here who doubt your ability to see cards remotely. Would you like to prove 'em wrong? Okay, I'll pass the phone around."

Each person who takes the phone hears the answer from the person on the line: "Three of spades."

Have you figured out the trick? The caller at the party only says "Hello" after the person at the other end says, "Ace? Two? Three?" That is, the timing of the "Hello" tells the person that the card is a Three. Similarly, the timing of the "Sir" tells the person that the card is not a heart, not a diamond, not a club, but is a spade.
TheStatutoryApe
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Dec16-04, 11:08 PM
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Quote Quote by Janitor
Before the filming began, somebody with access to the inside of the room placed a remote-control toy car under a bed...
I thought of that myself. Did you actually read or hear about that somewhere or is it just a guessed explination?
Ivan Seeking
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Dec16-04, 11:20 PM
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It's not hard to imagine how someone might fake something like this. That's exactly why proof like this, assuming for a moment that it was "proof" [genuine], is so useless. When a phenomenon is random and transient, undeniable evidence is often terribly elusive if not nearly impossible. I'm not sure what would constitute proof of ghosts less a personal encounter for every scientist or person of interest. I can't put and ghost on the table [whatever a ghost may be, if they be] and offer it for testing.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec16-04, 11:32 PM
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Remember that this was supposed to be a controlled experiment - the kind of stuff done and published daily without objections. I suspect [really I know of some] that many people have assumed that their reputation would carry the day, only to find that no reputation is that weighty in the face of "paranormal" claims. Every respectable UFO buff has suffered the same learning experience.
honestrosewater
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Dec17-04, 12:42 AM
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Let me see if I can explain this. I have never actually observed firsthand a tornado nor a ghost. I think the existence of tornadoes is easier to believe because I have experienced their components; I've experienced water, thunderstorms, swirling winds, vortex bottles (two soda bottles filled with liquid, taped together at the neck), etc. I haven't ever experienced anything supernatural- I don't even know what ghosts are supposedly composed of? Surely most of you have encountered questions like "But what is [blank] actually made of?"
Can science actually say anything about the nature of the things it observes? Or can it just explain how those things interact? Does that distinction make sense? Perhaps saying "science can only do such and such" is misleading, but I'm not sure how else to explain it.
Maybe a better distinction would be mechanics vs. essence. Even if science could explain the mechanics of how ghosts interact with other familiar things, ghosts may still be difficult to believe if their essence is left unexperienced. That is, the mechanical explanation may make sense, but another piece may still be missing; A piece which science may not be able to produce. That is, perhaps there are two parts to the "proof".
What if someone has one part, but not the other? Perhaps someone who has seen a ghost has all the proof they need, just as someone who understands how atomic structure is inferred has all the proof they need?
Maybe the person who tries to replace personal experience with mechanical explanations isn't standing on as firm of grounds as they think.
Sorry if that was repetitive, I tried to clean it up some... I think it's Les's ideas swirling around in me brain. Qualia may actually be a better term than essence, but whatever...
Chronos
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Dec17-04, 01:25 AM
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If a paranormal phenomenon was shown to be repeatable under controlled conditions, scientists would stand in line for the chance to study it like Cub fans trying to get home game bleacher seats for the world series.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec17-04, 05:37 PM
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Unfortunately nature doesn't seem to accommodate science, at times.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec17-04, 05:43 PM
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Perhaps the interesting questions require greater effort.


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