ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
Privacy and cookie information ASSAP mailing list
 
 

We define the paranormal as beyond the 'normal'. In practical research this means eliminating all possible natural causes before a phenomenon can be considered paranormal. But exactly how many natural causes need to be eliminated before the phenomenon can be declared paranormal? It is a perplexing problem!

Personal judgment

As researchers, we would all love a Hollywood moment, when the paranormal was obvious and easy to deomstrate to anyone. In real cases this never happens. So everyone exercises their personal judgnent about how many possible natural cauyses need to be eliminated before declaring something unexplained or paranormal. Everyone falls on a scale between 'it's obviously paranormal, just look at it' and 'I'm not sure anything would convince me'.

This is all very well on a personal basis. We all know why we are doing paranormal research and have a feel for what level of evidence would satisfy us. But is it scientific?

Scientific approach

All scientific knowledge is provisional. When new evidence or ideas become avaiolable they frequently challenge existing scientific theories and may cause them to be revised. It is often new technology, which allows better or completely novel measurements, that drives the process forwards. Thus, at any one moment, science is limited by the best evidence and ideas available.

What does this mean in practice? If someone comes up with a new idea to explain ghosts, for instance, it should always be explored. It doesn't necessarily mean that all existing cases are called into question. After all, the idea may turn out to be wrong. If the idea survives testing, it might then raise question marks about the existing cases.

 

Science

all possibilities considered

all possibilities properly eliminated

future possibilities can still change things

science is provisional and can always change - also it is the ultimate goal of scientific investigation to understand paranormal so making it normal

Practical Advice

best research methods available (see reporting the paranormal)

keep full records even of 'irrelevant' evidence in case it becomes relevant later

avoid assumption-led methods

do research to look at existing phenomena and devise tests for them eg orbs gone, EVP - need to test for formant noise - what are its limited