Proof that ghosts don't exist

  1. How could one go about proving that ghosts do not exist?

    Seems like we could make some basic assumptions about what ghosts are, and proceed to prove that that particular 'brand' of ghost cannot exist.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    We can't prove a general negative. We can only offer evidence of an explaination for specific claims, or for specific types of claims.
     
  4. Furthermore, it's not really your job to prove that they don't exist. It's up to the person making the claim to provide evidence and construct a "proof" of the existence of ghosts.
     
  5. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    Not really. In principle the person making the claim is merely providing a report. If I report a robbery, am I liable to explain who did it, or how? My wife and I had some unsual experiences, but that doesn't mean that I know what it was or how to explain it. There is a difference between reporting an observation and claiming to have an explanation for it. Likewise, a claim of an observation or experience only counts as anecdotal evidence for whatever is claimed.
     
  6. But making a claim to 'have seen a ghost' isn't providing a report, it's trying to provide an explanation. If someone claims to have seen a ghost, they should give evidence to why it was "a ghost" and not just something that seemed mysterious.
     
  7. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    The word "ghost" carries with it certain ideas about what we mean, but you are right in that the person making the claim should report exactly what was observed without adding any interpretations of what it might be. In fact that is part of what we like to do here: Make the distinction between evidence [be it anecdotal, scientific, or otherwise], and interpretations of that evidence.
     
  8. Yes. I was thinking about something like the commonly thought 'characteristics' of ghosts and if it could be shown that such a thing cannot exist. Characteristics such as:
    a. they can go through walls,
    b. they possess intelligence,
    c. they can move things,
    d. they appear as 'foggy-looking' see-through-type beings,
    e. etc. (Not sure if I'm forgetting something....)

    Could it be shown that a 'being' with these characteristics cannot exist?
     

  9. Maybe 'proof' is a bit strong. I guess what I'm asking is if we can make a strong argument against the existence of ghosts, and how we might construct such an argument.

    Sorry to double post.
     
  10. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    I think it fair to say that there is no accepted scientific evidence that ghosts, as suggested, exist. Given that, we have no explanation for what "ghosts" may be if they do exist. So already we can say that there is no known explanation for what people report. We could assume some model for ghosts and show that such a model would violate the laws of physics, but we would be working on assumptions, so the respective conclusions wouldn't mean anything except within the context of the assumptions made for the "ghost" model.

    We already agree that the popular view or "model" for ghosts seems to violate the laws of physics and the notion of consciousness as we understand it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  11. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    It is always possible that some claimed phenomenon, such as the claims of hauntings, will finally yield evidence that can be duplicated for proper study and peer review. In that event, it may be that physics will have to adapt to a "new" reality. But we have seen this before. Much of scientific knowledge was discovered, not predicted. For example, to this day we can't fully explain how lightning occurs. The issue of charge separation continues to haunt atmospheric scientists.
     
  12. Dadface

    Dadface 2,084
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    Science can only explain so much and that probably is not very much at all.Personally I rather like the concept of all the ghosties and ghoulies and long leggedy beasties.The world would be a less fun place without Casper.
     
  13. Those who sell the idea of ghost haunts use terms like 'paranormal' and 'supernatural' that, by definition, exclude science from pouring cold water on their burning enthusiam.
     
  14. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    Those are the words used because we don't have any others to offer.

    How does a word carry any significance at all here? What matters are the claimed phenomena.
     
  15. The problem here is that no one has defined what it is they mean by "ghost", so there's not really any discussion to be had. If you say they're supernatural or paranormal then, by the definitions of those words, you can't "prove" anything about them one way or another. If you claim they aren't supernatural then we should be able to find physical evidence to support the proposition that ghosts exist. So, where's the evidence?
     
  16. russ_watters

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    No, but if you report a robbery and a robbery didn't happen, you go to jail for it. That's roughly the situation here. If someone reports seeing "something", that's fine. If someone reports seeing "a ghost", then they are responsible for proving that claim. "A ghost" isn't scientific data, Ivan, it is a claim and one that requires substantiation. Evidence that (for example), a cloud on a phot isn't just a cloud of dust but an actual ghost.

    This is the problem with most of the typically accepted psuedoscientific pursuits: they skip half the steps of the scientific method and go about trying to gain evidence for something that hasn't been scientifically suggested, but is merelly assumed to exist. As a result, any evidence that isn't conclusively found to be something else is assumed to be that which they are looking for. It's using falsifiability to prove an hypothesis that isn't really falsifiable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  17. a claim about non existence , could be done by statistical proof or analysis

    ghost , elves do Not exists because using statistic yo do not see them every day

    for example i know electrons exists because i can go to a lab and measure them if i want, but i can not see or measure a ghost
     
  18. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    That is an assumption that can't be substantiated.

    Okay.

    An if they report seeing a floating head passing through the livingroom?

    REALLY? I was sure there is a section in my physics books somewhere. :rofl:

    No it is a word. Would you be happy is they said floating head, instead?

    Tell me precisely what a ghost is so that we know what proof to require.

    People make interpretations based on popular notions. I have already addressed that as a legitimate issue. Please read before posting.

    Who is they?

    You mean based on a claim.

    The problem with reports like hauntings is that they can't be produced on demand and repeated in a laboratory. As I have asked before: Precisely what evidence would be sufficient; Casper in a bottle? Unless you can provide a list of required evidence, you can hardly complain about not having it.

    Assuming that some people are indeed reporting genuine unexplained phenomena, the problem is the nature of the phenomenon, not the observers. We have the same problem with any phenomenon that can't be produced on demand, like ball lightning.
     
  19. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    Russ, all that you are really objecting to here are stories that you can't explain. If you can explain them, then you don't object.

    Sounds like anti-science to me - it only exists if I understand it.
     
  20. About 1 percent of the population is schizophrenic. Some schizophrenics believe that the voices they hear or the things they see are real. Some will atribute what they see to ghosts.

    I think that John Nash:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Forbes_Nash

    believed he had some family members or friends who in reality do not exist.
     
  21. No one is saying that there is no such thing as unexplained phenomena, in fact saying something as general and vague as that is almost entirely pointless. If everything was explained already, then this whole "science thing" would be irrelevant.

    Of course, saying that you saw a ghost (by the way Ivan, definitions ARE important contrary to what you seem to believe) is providing an interpretation of an event that requires evidence. I would very much prefer that an observer simply describe what they saw rather than attempt to provide their own interpretation. I realize getting someone to provide a description that doesn't presuppose some interpretation is probably impossible, but they should try.
     
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