Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Unknown - The Paranormal Playground

By Tony Yates

If Columbus would have been alive today, the leading authorities on the nautical sciences would have called him a paranormal sailor. After all, they called him crazy, which is what the term paranormal has become synonymous with in our cynical unimaginative world. Of course this could apply to any number of explorers and scientists who dared to challenge and breakout into the unknown.

One characteristic of these adventurous people would be their willingness to sacrifice the petty pleasure of looking down on people in smug superiority, in exchange for actually doing something worthwhile. Of course actually going out and having an adventure requires more effort than heckling from the sidelines. Which would explain heckling's overwhelming support from the majority of us who are lazy, and well, like it.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a cruel and unforgiving skeptic. I take as much delight in tearing down logical fallacies as sumo wrestlers delight in giving each other wedgies. I understand and am devoted to the scientific method. I am particularly fond of it being applied to my food and medicine, ensuring that they are healthy, clean and safe. Without the lubrication of the scientific method the machine which is our civilization would grind to a halt.

Yet when it comes to exploring the areas where science has not yet tested the waters, shouldn't we exercise some restraint in our criticism? Most amateur paranormal investigators did not undergo rigorous training, or even have a science background. They are like kids playing with dad's tools because it's fun! Their heads may not always be in the right place, but their hearts sure are. Shouldn't we encourage enthusiasm for discovery?

Okay, okay. This is the part where the crusty old professor pipes up about how science is not always fun and exciting. That the real scientist can spend years, or even decades immersed in unbelievably tedious and boring calculations and experiments, before they can even think about getting excited. That real science requires hard work and dedication.

Here lies the main difference: most amateur paranormal investigators do not necessarily want to be scientists. They are more concerned about having fun on a Friday night, then getting their research published in a peer-reviewed publication. After all, isn't a night spent playing around with video equipment, EMF detectors, digital recorders, and all the other toys in the paranormal toolbox better than talking about the weather in the same old boring bar.

Tony Yates

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