Do you believe in paranormal things?

  • Coder

    @Thenomain said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    So what you're saying is that our tools fail us and we're left with incomplete information and have to fill in the blanks with our chaotic, unknowable human minds.

    Not necessarily. I suspect that minds are knowable, but the hypothetical complexity needed to completely understand all physical and semantic features of an operating mind might require a more complex mind. I don't know-- but it is an interesting research problem that I look forward to being explored with SCIENCE.

    We just have an incomplete model for both the electron and the human condition.

    Well yes, obviously. Our models of everything are incomplete, but improving.

    I think where I was going with the electron thing (sorry, had to get up at 7am after about 2 hours of sleep because augh food poisoning and I hadn't had coffee yet and the cat was starving so bad she was howling and knocking things off the desk even as I typed) -- was that some questions cannot be usefully answered not because they are unknowable, but because they are the wrong question. The underlying nature of reality may be such that particles not in superposition may only have one feature or another, and the other case just isn't defined once that happens. Nothing supernatural about that but it is Really Cool.

    In computer science we have a number of similar cases. Consider the Halting Problem. Essentially: You can write a program that might not terminate. You cannot write a program that can test whether that is true of another program (and itself guarantee halting) in the general case. (You can always make a program more difficult to analyze, and thus cause the analyzer to fail to halt.) This isn't supernatural either, but it is very much a case of unknowable data that arises from the mathematical structures we create to understand things.

    These sorts of features of unknowability are not supernatural or occult or anything of the sort. Think of them more like shadows cast by a light. We can move the light and objects around, but there will always be shadows by virtue of the logical structures we create to understand things and the inherent limitations each has. We can always switch to different models, but this only moves the shadows around, making a different set of things knowable or unknowable.

    Ring the bells that still can ring.
    Forget the perfect offering.
    There is a crack in everything.
    That's how the light gets in.

    -Leonard Cohen

  • Oh, shit. I'm going to be typing a while here.

    The quotes I'm picking aren't to pick on the posters making them. They're just perfect examples of the point I think is important to make.

    @Cupcake said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    That is an awesome story, true or not.

    Here's the thing: that statement, like a lot of other things, is potentially dangerous shorthand for a more complex reality. (I picked that one because it's the shortest, most succinct example.)

    The story can be true without the implied conclusion.

    The difference between the story and the implied conclusion being true is very different, and it's a difference that can, has, and will continue to have a damaging impact on people's lives.

    The events are what they are.

    The implied conclusion there is that the spirits of the babies on the steps were crying from beyond the grave until such time as they were given a proper burial.

    That can be a false conclusion without calling the actual observed events or 'the story' into question in any way. For instance, if the implied conclusion was, instead, that cats were in fact gathering on that concrete area and wailing, and when the concrete area was destroyed, the cats found somewhere else to do their thing, would you question the 'the story' part, or the implied conclusion?

    Probably neither, but as you call the veracity of the observed events into question based on the conclusion, you're walking a dangerous line. The conclusion is what needs to be called into question -- not the events themselves.

    Pretty much any event can be explained. Maybe not now, but more on that in a moment.

    As @Chime mentions, we once thought the mentally ill were possessed by demons and would torture them rather than offer treatment. We know mental illness exists, now, and thus it isn't the observable phenomena that is 'untrue', it's the conclusion that has been drawn to explain it.

    Substantial harm can come from this in the same way that believing in every wild theory that comes down the pike can cause substantial harm.

    Further, when you call the events themselves rather than the implied conclusion 'untrue', you're automatically putting someone on the defensive and essentially calling them a liar, and that is a challenge to their credibility right out of the gate.

    It's essentially the opposite of the actual scientific method: 'I don't like the conclusion, so the events probably never occurred'. That's not how the scientific method works, and a lot of people go there pretty fast, often without ever realizing they're doing so.

    My favorite example of this comes from a relatively quirky case study. There's a doctor up in Canada, if I recall correctly, who has been doing studies on the effects of electromagnetic fields on the brain. His last name is Persinger, he's likely easy enough to google if you're curious.

    What's interesting is this: what @Arkandel mentions about known conditions causing certain experiences is something he's been able to reproduce in a lab. (Though, boo, man! Sleep paralysis is hagging and the incubus lore, shadow figures and sensed presences are what went down in this lab setting. ;) ) He was able to, by manipulating the electromagnetic field around a test subject, cause them to 'sense someone in the room' when no one was there, and reproduce other, similar, commonly reported 'paranormal phenomena', just by manipulating these magnetic frequencies.

    And so, there was a woman. She kept sensing a presence in her room. She couldn't sleep. She kept feeling like someone was hovering around her bed at night, and it was freaking her right out. She was experiencing genuine, actual, discomfort over these events.

    She had, of course, endless people telling her it could not be a ghost or creepy actual presence in her room, and therefore, she was nuts, so the events themselves could not be occurring.

    That is not helpful, and people were happy to completely dismiss her problem as this because it's a commonly accepted potential conclusion. (It just wasn't the correct one.)

    She had people telling her, no doubt, there was a ghost in her room wishing her ill or similar.

    Also spectacularly not helpful.

    Then, gods only know how, somebody thought to ask this guy to come in with his kit to check out the room and see if, hey, maybe something in the room was putting off that odd frequency range that makes a lot of people's brains think there's someone looming over them ominously.

    The alarm clock right where 'the ominous figure' would have been standing was.

    They replaced the alarm clock, and her very real problem went away. Thus, it isn't always a case of 'we have a commonly accepted conclusion' and 'we have a fringe theory conclusion' and suddenly you can only choose between those two things as if the answer must be there.

    To me, this is the critical difference between dismissing experiences based on assumed conclusions, and testing those experiences to find out what is actually going on.

    (There's a lot more interesting stuff about that study, mainly that different people respond differently to certain things in terms of sensitivity to the stimuli which is really quite fascinating, but that's another giant blurt for after today's slate of RL work gets a round of time. Alas, clove break over. :/)

    @TNP said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    No. With a qualifier. I acknowledge that there's still lots of things we don't know yet and that today's 'paranormal' could be tomorrow's science. However, I've yet to see or experience anything that leads me to believe that such things do in fact exist, explained or not. I could be wrong but the burden of proof is on the one making such claims. This does, of course, apply fully to religion as well.

    This, to me, is clearer on where I think people's brains need to be on this, provided it's, again, not the experience itself, divorced from a conclusion, that's being called into question, but the conclusion as 'the claim'.

    It's the difference between:

    "I saw something weird in the hallway that looked like a person!"

    which could have any number of explanations, and:

    "I saw the ghost of my grandmother in the hallway!"

    too, in terms of how those experiences are being related. Which is also incredibly important; people generally aren't necessarily good at examining the basics like this, though, especially when encountering something that's unusual or somehow frightening to them.

    Just like the experience can't be thrown out because you don't like the conclusion, you can't build the conclusion into the experience itself.

    Personally, I grew up around a lot of weird, weird shit going on more or less all the time. I don't pretend I know what it is. I would love to find out, some day, though I doubt I will in any greater sense. A lot of the 'common conclusions' are, frankly, comforting as hell! (The ancient-of-days username was surreality_vortex, as in, 'weirdness magnet totally doesn't even cut it'. There's a reason for that. :/ )

    I actually love the ghost hunting shows! ...for plot ideas, though. There's nothing trustable there, really, as 'evidence' of anything. Some of the 'if you have black mold in your house it can fuck with you in the following ways' or 'you should really check for mice if you hear scratching in the walls first before freaking out' kinds of things are, I think, helpful, especially for people exceptionally prone to blame 'the ghosts' for things like black mold that can do them very real and preventable harm, or have the potential to be helpful. Sadly, a lot of that has gone the way of the dodo in favor of sensationalist (sketchy-as-fuck) bullshit.

    I think I'm sitting over in @Thenomain's corner again, though I can't be sure!

  • Yes and no...

    With the caveat of science, then no. I think things in the world/universe will all eventually be explained, just unlikely in our lifetime.

    Without that, I do believe in paranormal things to an extent, if only because of personal experience.

    The first and most chilling example to me -

    When I was in elementary school, my parents and I lived in an old condo they were remodeling. I'd always had night terrors, but by then I had a recurring dream about falling off of the third floor balcony of the indoor stairs to the first floor. (bedrooms were all upstairs). In this dream, I'd fall, and I'd lie there, not moving, while people stepped over and through me. Couldn't talk, couldn't do anything. Just stuck there on the floor. I'd wake up just about every night, screaming and crying, as children tend to do. My parents always told me it was just a nightmare, and to make me feel better, I'd sleep with the bedroom door closed and an army of stuffed animals to "protect" me.

    Years later, we've moved out, I'm in high school, my mom and I are talking about the old condo, and she lets slip - "Yeah, too bad we got it after that little girl died there. Always gave me the creeps at night."

    Apparently, my parents kept from me for years the fact that a little girl had fallen off the balcony and snapped her neck on impact, died, and that's why the previous owners of the condo had moved out.

    Granted, this was all waaaay after the fact that I heard about this. But my mother, as much of a bitch as she can be, was never one to scare me intentionally...if only because she didn't want to have to deal with upset-me.

    A bunch of stuff happened like that when I was a kid. Seeing things that weren't there, especially at night. I'm sure there's an explanation for everything, but to this day I still believe in paranormal things to a degree, science or not.

  • Pitcrew

    To me, the word "paranormal" is different from supernatural. I'll try to explain...

    I have faith, practice a religion (and draw the distinction between the two), and generally try to live as though what I believe is actually true. I don't believe in ghosts and the rest of that stuff. So, I look at the supernatural (eg: miracles), and I say, "Sure." But when I hear stories related to the paranormal (eg: ghosts, premonitions, precognition, etc), I find that stuff absurd.

    I even like science. :P

  • Pitcrew

    I am more like Sunny in this regard. While I believe that there are things currently unexplained I also think that there are explanations for them.

    I am not a very woo woo person. And yet a lot of things like myofascial therapies were considered make believe or ignorant old fashioned remedies that are no longer needed now because of medical advances even 20 years ago (or even massage or hydrotherapy benefits) are now accepted and recommended and adopted as allopathic medical establishment practices.

    I have experiences on a regular basis that aren't easily explainable, as a bodywork practioner. I never believed in transference of negative "energy" for lack of a better scientific term or that "spiritual" grounding before putting your hands on someone can help. I can detect, if I really make a connection with someone during a session, with pretty good reliability strong emotions and experiences. I've seen people have emotional releases when certain more eastern medicine hotspots are worked on/when it's where they are happening to hold their stress in their body.

    I do think that there will be a scientific explanation more thoroughly eventually. I dislike "energy workers" with a passion because I think most are shysters and I especially hate fake Native American "I was adopted by a shaman spiritually and now I can heal people" cultural appropriators. But I have a far more open mind that it may very well be that there is something to electrical field sensitivity or other things that make me a little uncomfortable to hear my fellow body workers talk about; I do think that some people may be able to tap into that and produce effects or some other explanation.

  • Pitcrew

    I'm like many of the others. I believe there are things we don't yet have the capacity to explain. Things that could be very real that are written off as something supernatural just because we don't have the reason for it yet... or the ability to comprehend it (woo string theory).

    I was actually part of a ghost hunting group about a decade ago. Most of the time it was just sort of a fun activity for me that involved exploring old, creepy places, with a group of people who got us permission to be there. Sah-weet!

    But we actually had one case where a professor of a university called us in to help a family. Shit happened that night that I cannot explain. Shit that makes me uncomfortable to this day. Does it mean I'm fully on the "oh yeah the paranormal is totes real" train? No. But it does mean I definitely think there are things we don't yet have the capacity to understand, but we also cannot deny. So for the time being, yes, some might call it supernatural.

    Like, OK. I mean, it's not a supernatural thing... But people didn't know whether or not a horse's hooves fully (all 4) left the ground during a gallop until we had photography ( The human eye couldn't track it, so it was apparently a big point of debate at the time. Then a photographer comes along, manages to get some photos, and proves: yes, during a gallop, there are stages where all four hooves are off the ground.

    So what we call supernatural may just be something we don't have the capacity to explain with science. Which, again, puts me with the others above in their reference to the caveat. I don't blindly believe in the supernatural, but I think there are things we place under that umbrella until we can explain them properly.

  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice Right, we can't explain things until we can measure them. Measuring is the key to science! So, I think there's a lot of stuff in the world and the universe that seems supernatural and fantastic because we haven't yet figured out how to measure it. (Or stumbled on how to measure it and extrapolated from that what it is. This also happens!)

  • Politics

    I've never really seen any evidence that confirms the existence, or even the possibility, of the 'paranormal'- even as much comfort as it could give me to think that, for example, my mom will continue to exist as herself after she dies.

    But I've really seen no real body of evidence that supports claims of the supernatural- with every claim of either supernatural phenomena or abilities disintegrating under serious scrutiny, with the aforementioned abilities somehow being incapable of being replicated under controlled conditions. James Randi's challenge has remained unconquered now for decades.

    I don't deny that some things happen which appear to be supernatural, but most of the time they're either psychological, or perfectly explainable by science- even if it takes a long while to figure out exactly what the hell was it that happened- such as the recent discovery that infrasound may be linked to the trend of ghost sightings by, basically, flipping a survival switch in our brain when the infrasound frequencies resemble the low spectrum of the growls produced by certain predators.

    This has led me to conclude that the popularity of Barry White and the explosion of ghost sightings in the seventies were not coincidental in the least.

  • Yes. The DMV/DPS is a portal to Hell, and I work in the 10th layer of hell- Retail.

  • I am not sure if this is a case of paranormal activity or if it was a premonition that came to me at night but I'll tell the story and let you guys decide what it might have been a case of:

    I was young, around 5 or 6, I believe. This involves my great-grandfather (my step-dad's grandfather) who I only met twice. The first time was when he was very old and frail but still functional, albeit confined to a wheelchair by this point, and the second time was when he was pretty much on his death bed.

    One night, as I was sleeping, I felt someone sitting on my bed. My mom would occasionally sit on my bed while checking in on me so I thought she was the one who caused the shift of the mattress. I do believe I woke up but it just might've been a part of the vision/dream/whatever it was only to see an older man sitting where I thought my mom would be. Even though I only saw my great-grandfather twice I knew it was him, recognizing him despite how he looked quite a bit younger. Still an old man but not the frail man I remembered him to be. He looked at me with this sadness to his expression while telling me he was sorry he would not get to see me grow up to become the beautiful woman he knew I'd become and he said his goodbyes. He then rose from the bed, again causing it to shift. He then walked out of the room but went through the door that was closed and I fell back asleep.

    The next morning my dad got a call from my grandpa, letting him know that Great-Grandfather Dewey had passed away in his sleep.

  • No, not at all.

  • Pitcrew

    I don't, but I want to.

  • Pitcrew

    @Royal said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    I don't, but I want to.

    I don't believe in @Royal, but I want to. :(

  • Coder


    And my point is that we don't know enough about the electron to call it conclusive. We only know that we can't know both because the way we observe it, thus the "insufficient tools" remark. It may very well be that we can't know both, but we haven yet had enough evidence to say why. Like gravity, our models are pretty complete but until recently we had not one bit of data as to WHY. Gravity was a phenomenon in the same way the electron issue is. Just because it's a phenomenon of science doesn't make it any less baffling.

    I was agreeing, but expanding.

    Also, the comment about the human mind being unknowable was a joke, considering how I said that ultimately nothing was unknowable.

  • Yes. If only because of The WAAAGH! Is my best example of a 'Great Consensus'.

  • @Apu They've actually run statistics on this, which is interesting. It's more common than you think it ever could be even as random chance.

    That, however... doesn't explain it away, either, IMHO.

    "Statistically more common than you'd ever think that it's random," is still not "this is random and nothing strange has occurred." It could be is not the same as it is and that's kinda the crux of the problem of any unusual experience.

    I've known people to which this has happened many times (many people in my family experience this particular weirdness repeatedly, which changes those statistics somewhat, but also makes me wonder about confirmation bias and echo chamber effects), however, so I'm not as comfortable with the 'it's just random' explanation as I might be otherwise.

    For instance, I cared for my grandmother in the years leading up to her death. Some nights, rarely, she would scream in her sleep all through the night. Every time, we'd find out later some relative of ours had died that day. It happened enough I started marking it down when she'd be screaming (I was always up through the night and slept during the day at the time) and, yep, eleven more times with no misses. It lined up. But how the hell else would one even test that? Start killing people? So it's anecdotal, and I don't expect it to convince anyone else, but to me, that was enough to make me leery of the 'it's just random because the statistics are higher than you think' explanation.

  • Pitcrew

    @Coin said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    @Royal said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    I don't, but I want to.

    I don't believe in @Royal, but I want to. :(

    That's weird, my mom says that all the time...

  • Are talking specifically ghosts, spirits, demons, vampires, etc? That kind of supernatural?

    Or does aliens, UFOs, bigfoot and other such things?

    I'm skeptical of the former like everyone else has more or less said so far, it's likely measuable but science just hasn't caught up or figured out how to do so yet. However, the latter? I've seen enough shit with the latter that I know exactly what I saw, and it still scares the shit out of me when I start thinking too much about it.

  • Politics

    Hm, I don't think aliens would count as supernatural- I think that intelligent life in the universe is possible. However, due to sheer physics alone and the gaping, unimaginable distance between stars, much less galaxies, I don't think we will ever have a chance to meet- then you have to add the facts that civilizations that could be in their stone age right now will be technologically advanced by the time we have probably disappeared, and realize this probably happens all over the place in the universe. Two civilizations meeting has such an infinitesimal chance of happening...

    Then again, considering the size of the universe, it probably has happened. Not to us, though, I don't think.

    And while we are still finding species we had no idea existed, something like a bigfoot or a Nessie really is out of the question. Demons and Vampires, though, do exist- they're in the opera business, representing singers.

  • Admin

    @Monogram said in Do you believe in paranormal things?:

    Are talking specifically ghosts, spirits, demons, vampires, etc? That kind of supernatural?

    Or does aliens, UFOs, bigfoot and other such things?

    Dunno. If it does to you and you want to talk about it then sure, why not? :)

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