In Search Of the Paranormal

ghost9When I was younger, I had a deep interest in the paranormal. I rented the time-life films about alien abductions and searched books for Main Sequence G2 stars within range of our solar system. I even had a few conversations with my friends on what kind of equipment we would need to properly contain a Class 4  free-floating vapor. However, things changed as time passed. Perhaps it was because the Alien abduction videos never provided physical proof of abduction. Maybe it was because ghost containment unit parts weren’t readily available via mail order. It could also have something to do with the evidence being burned, confiscated, or whisked away to another planet at the end of every damn X-files episode.

While my interest has waned, there is still that little glimmer of hope inside of me that someday, somehow, we’ll run across an actual telepath, talk to dead people, or even see a real alien space-ship.  It really ticks me off how many people are willing to take advantage of that hope for personal gain. There was a recent test  by the James Randi Education Foundation of a Ms. Patricia Putt, who claimed she had the ability to psychically read 10 people she had never met before and write down their personality traits. At the end of the test, the participants would choose which profile represented them the best. If Ms. Putt could match 10 people to 10 profiles, she would win a million dollars and be a verifiable psychic. Even if she got 5 out of 10, the judges would recognize some evidence of her ability and provide further testing. She got 0 out of 10 right.

Initially, she accepted defeat gracefully, but then she takes  Occam’s Razor and jams it in her own eye by rationalizing her failure. She claims she got 10 out of 10 right because each person picked a profile. It didn’t matter that it was the wrong profile. The only problem with this theory is that terms of the contest were that each person had to take one profile that best described them. They couldn’t go with any overlapping traits. Using a loophole in the test to protest its results only disproves her psychic powers even further. If she was a real psychic, she wouldn’t have to cover herself with all this cognitive dissonance. The real tragedy of it all is that people like this only serve to distract people from wondering about real science, and finding out how the brain really works. It’s something that we don’t know yet, but there is so much work to be done so we can grow our understanding. I dearly want this search for the fantastic to continue, but it would be a lot easier if we could just keep the nutjobs out of it.

Test found Via Bad Astronomy