Saturday, October 6, 2007

Where Did Scientific Investigations Go?

This morning I caught an interesting documentary on the Travel Channel about the Ghosts of Gettysburg. This show documents the paranormal investigations of Mark Nesbitt and associates as they try to authenticate and communicate with the disquiet spirits of fallen Civil War soldiers throughout the famous battlefield.

Among the more interesting portions of the broadcast was a segment where the team's "tech guru," Scott, researches the effects of using multiple IR filters with his digital camera to screen out the daytime noise and approximate something closer to - in his opinion - nighttime, which he theorizes produces a greater likelihood of full body apparition images. The images he has produced thus far (full body civil war soldiers) are intriguing and definately require more scrutiny.

However, for every great moment there are those that give one pause...

In the same program, the psychic guides them to one spirit where the team employs the use of divining rods to communicate with the unseen spectre. But I must confess that I don't like divining rods, ouija boards, or certain meters often used by investigators. My reasons have NOTHING to do with fears of opening unchecked portals to the realms of demonic beings. If you know me at all, then you know I find that all very silly - great stuff for my fiction writing but otherwise...

No, my reason is that we have no way of knowing that the person is not influencing the outcome. In the case of this episode, there were no blind/double blind protocols employed, no control groups, no nothing even remotely scientific. All I could see was a psychic leading a dowser (who, by the way, held a death grip on the rods like you wouldn't believe - you could see her fists clench) to obvious answers of post facto questions. It was completely silly. Was it deceit? I don't know and I won't come out and say that it was without further evidence. But it causes suspicion.

In many respects, it is similiar to an episode of Ghost Hunters from last season. The team headed out to Hollywood to investigate both Charlie Chaplin's old studio (now the home to Jim Henson's works) and a supposed haunted house only 200 feet from the site of the famous Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate, et al.

While at the house, the team invites a local investigator to join them. He brings along a tool that works much like a binary ouija: true or false. Tres digital, I know. But the down side to the device, which was rather interesting to the point of creepy, was that the user had to hold the unit and depress a control button. Questions were asked and the entity would respond by making the device blink once for "yes" and twice for "no."

But how do we know that's what's really happening? There are no controls here. This is not in the least bit scientific. Later, they do manage to coax a "ghost" to decrease the ambient temperture by a significant margin, which I found impressive. Again, however, no scientific protocols were followed.

In my opinion, it's this total disregard for the scientific method that prevents quality work from surfacing. In the golden age of paranormal investigation and parapsychology, learned men and women of science took a serious interest in the phenomenon and examined it under the strictest of circumstances. Today, we have lost that desire for a hard, scientific approach. I only hope that in the future things will begin to take a turn and the days of indiscriminantly waving around gadgetry will lose its lustre.

And if you are interested in purchasing my book on the paranormal in Oklahoma, we will have copies for sale at the Red Dirt Book festival in Shawnee, OK. You can also purchase it using the paypal link above or e-mail s t r a n g e s t a t e o k @ y a h o o . c o m [kerning expanded to prevent spam]and we can fill your order.

No comments: