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Do you believe in ghosts?

  1. May 11, 2009 #1
    A thread in the digital cameras forum made me think this might be a good debate topic without getting into the passions of religion and politics.

    I admit that there are strange and frequently un-explainable things, (so far), that happen but I do not believe in ghosts.
     
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  3. May 12, 2009 #2
    When you say "ghosts" I assume you are not just limiting yourself to the concept of the disembodied spirits of people who have died, but are referring to a general 'paranormal' class of proposed entities that do not have physical bodies, but which can, occasionally, for reasons unknown, demonstrate enough material reality to be photographed, tape recorded, interact with objects, affect human senses. This might include, on top of disembodied human spirits, angels, demons, mischief spirits like elves, leprechauns, etc. Yes?
     
  4. May 12, 2009 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    I believe that there are real phenomena that people call ghosts. I also think [know] we don't understand all of them.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2009
  5. May 12, 2009 #4
    I think it's a perfectly explainable concept, it all happens in the head. By understanding more about the mind the experience becomes a sort of interlaced evolution of emotions and reason.

    Here is the basic idea what brain can do:

    You see a catching advertisement, and hear a roar of an airplane flying overhead. Your brain will map the ad with the passing airplane. That way, if you see the same ad again, you will recall the airplane, or vice versa, if you see again any airplane flying above, you will think of the ad on some level. If the mapping if not so strong, you will at least become open to the suggestion of the ad. You can map emotions, smells, touch, gestures, anything basically is put in the brain. A long accumulation of these maps will form a database, that if linked and trigged can activate like a domino effect.

    An example of such mapping is a phobia where a traumatic event has been strongly linked with the emotion of fear. That way, anytime you encounter the event, you will be flooded with fear, and take steps to avoid the situation.

    It is the same with ghosts, in my opinion. The whole episode is triggered by an outside circumstance, initiating different maps like a script giving an effect of seeing ghosts.

    I'm sure that in the future when better brain mapping techniques will become available, neuroscientists, will learn more about the mind.
     
  6. May 12, 2009 #5

    Danger

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    Interesting, Waht. I was aware of associative linking, particularly with scent, but not the mapping process that you describe.
    I certainly don't believe in ghosts as anything supernatural, but there are still natural phenomena that we don't fully understand. Anything from minor seismic shifts to electromagnetic fields might be misinterpreted as ghostly activity. I've even heard something about standing waves trapped in a structure being to blame, but I don't know enough about that to even comment upon it.
     
  7. May 12, 2009 #6
    If I recall correctly you are one of the people here with a Tesla-like ability to more-or-less hallucinate at will. According to what I'm reading now everyone has the basic mechanism in place to do that, but it is inhibited by real visual processing. The visual cortex is so busy processing signals from the eyes it is not at leisure to hallucinate. I think there must be some researcher somehwere who'd be interested in doing a PET scan of you while you visualize stuff to see what brain areas are activated, to see why you seem to be able to over-ride the inhibition of normal sight.
     
  8. May 12, 2009 #7
    There lives a dragon in my garage.
     
  9. May 12, 2009 #8

    Danger

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    Is it street-legal?
     
  10. May 12, 2009 #9

    mgb_phys

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    http://bitcast-a.v1.iad1.bitgravity.com/gawker/assets/images/4/2007/12/dragon_bike.jpg [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. May 12, 2009 #10
    I'm flattered that you remember that discussion from over a year ago. I'd take a PET scan to see what's in there.
     
  12. May 12, 2009 #11

    Chi Meson

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    WHen I was very young, I really wanted to believe in ghosts, magic, and ESP. I now do not believe in any of these things. Do NOT call me a skeptic, please. I happen to know that these things do not exist. That's not skepticism.

    There are "unexplained phenomena," certainly. But ghosts, as in spirits of dead people, nope.
     
  13. May 12, 2009 #12
    Certainly I agree. We cannot exclude any natural phenomena that can interact with human physiology.

    Ghosts for example, are associated with death, and that is unpleasant, because we don't want death. Thinking about it too much has a creeping effect on people. Any squeaks, or doors gently moved due to pressure difference in the surrounding air can activate adrenalin glands for instance. There is a sort of feedback mechanism going on between the surroundings and your mind.

    Also interesting how architecture can influence people:

    things like ceiling height, room color, shape of walls; all tend to change the state of mind

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=building-around-the-mind
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2009
  14. May 12, 2009 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    That would explain all but the real events.
     
  15. May 12, 2009 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    While I agree that there are many reasons that people have false perceptions, when I hear all claims being dismissed as trivial, then the arguments lose all credibility and the skepticism becomes comical.

    The choice is not between souls of the dead, and trivial explanations. That is a false choice.
     
  16. May 12, 2009 #15

    jacksonpeeble

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    Physically, no.
     
  17. May 12, 2009 #16
    I never forget an hallucination.

    What area of the world do you live in?
     
  18. May 12, 2009 #17
    What are the real choices?
     
  19. May 12, 2009 #18

    Chi Meson

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    "Trivial," no. If some phenomenon has perplexed people for a long time, so much that a scheme has been invented to provide an explanation, but a scientific explanation remains elusive, that is not trivial.

    For any "supernatural" phenomenon, I truly believe there is a natural explanation. In some cases, complicated and yet unknown. I can't say what it is, but that's because I wasn't there making observations, taking measurements, etc.

    But I am certain that the persistence of a large proportion of ghosts and other "phenomena" (etc.) is simply due to the well-documented evidence of the existence of unreasonable, deranged, psychotic, and stupid humans.

    These categories appear rather cruel, while many of the "believers" are quite benign. There are those who will themselves to see what they want to see, those who act opportunistically, those who are pressured to agree that they "saw it too," those who desperately want to maintain a fantasy, those who cultivate the idea that they have special abilities most people do not, those who were fooled by practical jokes/elaborate hoaxes, those who find comfort in believing in an afterlife, etc.

    And quickly I add that there is the remaining proportion of unexplained phenomena for which there is not enough physical evidence to discover their natural cause; and there are reasonable, rational, folk who remain open to other possibilities (translation: "Don't ban me Ivan! :smile:")

    This is me: I do not believe in the supernatural, in any of it's forms.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2009
  20. May 12, 2009 #19
    Supernatural means that it's not explicable by any natural law. But what if there is some natural law we don't know about? Does that make things supernatural? What if some law of nature makes it possible for some unknown physical field to escape the brain after death?
    It may sound like a strange theory... but to me it's not much harder to believe that we as humans will ever be able to explain everything about the universe and our existence. Maybe there is some law or 'being' (God?) that governs some fundamental processes we as humans will never even touch on.

    I understand that most people here on the physics forums are rational people, and they don't want to believe in vague things such as 'ghosts'. Which is fine. But I think it is important that also physicist acknowledge that they have to have an open mind to discover new phenomena. Prejudice is a bad thing!
     
  21. May 12, 2009 #20

    Chi Meson

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    You know what they say about having a mind that is too open, right? If there is something truly unexplainable, then it would indicate a field worth researching. But there is no known principle that allows for these ghostly phenomena. We can't just "say anything" and expect that anything we say must be a possibility.

    "What if some unknown physical field escapes the brain after death?" What if? I've watched enough of "Ghosthunters" and "This Haunted House" to know that "What if it's malarkey?" is a much greater probability.


    I have been to many places that are supposed to be, or should be haunted. Spooky old buildings where disturbed, psychotic people must have died writhing, horrible deaths. (e.g. http://www.opacity.us/site64_norwich_state_hospital.htm) Why do ghosts avoid me?
    Willingness to believe in malarkey is a bad thing too.
     
  22. May 13, 2009 #21
    I'm not saying this should be researched, or that you should even believe in it. But also as a physicist you have to acknowledge that you know far from everything, and that there may be things that you could never even imagine.
     
  23. May 13, 2009 #22

    Chi Meson

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    I acknowledged that when I was 12 years old. Such a statement goes without saying, as far as I am concerned, and I get so annoyed (excuse me) when people give me this tripe. I think there is a terrible strawman created by the media that scientists have closed minds and have to accept things they do not understand. No one knows better what they do not understand than a good scientist.

    It is prejudice that creates the ghost. Something that doesn't make sense? Can't explain what it is? "It must be a ____________" (fill in supernatural entity).

    Imagination is one thing, fiction is another. When you allow yourself to believe in old stories as an explanation for the OCCASIONAL unexplained non-hoax phenomenon, then you might as well believe any fictional story might be true. I mean, keep an open mind right? Careful, Voldemort IS still out there.
     
  24. May 13, 2009 #23
    You're using words I've never said. I never said that scientists have closed minds, and I never said I know better than a good scientist.

    I don't really understand why you react so offended. Maybe I used the wrong words (I'm no native speaker), but my only real point was that it is a virtue not to be prejudiced (as a physicist but also as a person).

    For example when Einstein came up with special and general relativity, there was a lot of resistance against it. How could there be no ether, that's nonsense! You can't do physics without ether! This was considered a good argument back then. Now, most people have accepted otherwise. But if no one would ever have considered to let go of old intuition, we wouldn't have come this far.

    If you don't know what it is, it may be anything....

    You're taking this way out of proportion.


    Some final words: I don't necessarily believe in ghosts, but I think there are things that go way over our head being simple human beings. It's a rather humble position, but I prefer it to the arrogance that comes along with thinking to know it all (no offense, it's nothing personal against anybody here). Agree with it or not, this is just my personal view on it. I thought I'd give this thread a kick in another direction than it seemed to be going :) . I would like to hear some other people's thoughts!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
  25. May 13, 2009 #24

    Chi Meson

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    I think we can both agree to tone things down. I do get offended when it appears that people say that I think I know everything, when it is clear that I don't. I do get offended when people tell me to have an open mind, when my mind is quite open. If you did not intend that offense, then fine, I will not be offended, but it did initially appear to me that way.

    As far as "taking it out of proportion," yes I may have gone hyperbolic on you, but belief in the supernatural DOES open the door to the "possibility of anything," which I do not believe in. Possible phenomena must be explained in terms of what we do understand. If we do not understand a phenomenon, then it is a mystery. As an example, if we use your "brain field" speculation, there must be some tangible evidence for its existence, something that can be measured, or method of studying its effects. Only then would it elevate to the level of hypothesis. If results can be obtained, and a model of this field can be developed to work coherently with what we already understand, then we can elevate it to "theory."

    If there is no possibility of recording tangible evidence, then it can't be interacted with, and if it can't be interacted with then it can't be seen or felt or photographed and then quite obviously is not the "ghost."

    If the speculation has no plausible support by means of tangible evidence*, then it remains speculation, which is almost equal to fiction. Anything you say "could be possible," but to quote Capt Sparrow, "Not Probable."

    *"ghost hunters" claim they have plenty of evidence, most of it appears to me to be wishful interpretation of noise: a garbled, over-amplified background noise on a cassette tape recording is interpreted as a ghost whispering "Martha"; it could also be the sound of a person bumping into something; a "weird floating shape" in a low-quality, grainy video tape that had undergone numerous re-recordings, but after all those episode (of which I have seen only a few minutes of a few), have they actually gotten anything yet?
     
  26. May 13, 2009 #25
    Sorry for that then. It was actually supposed to be a general statement.

    This is the physical way of looking at it. I understand it and agree with you. There is just one thing that I think about differently. I think there is more than measurable things. So it can't be proven or disproved, just like you can't prove or disprove god, but that simply is what I believe.

    Although I suppose you're thinking otherwise, I am actually very skeptical as to these ghost hunter videos. I've seen some and I don't believe anything supernatural was going on in there.
     
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