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Fact or Faked?

by Brian Dunning

October 28, 2011

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Donate Upon seeing this morning's post on Doubtful News about how SyFy's show Fact or Faked is gaining more viewers than ever, I felt compelled to comment upon its title, a pet peeve of mine ever since the show came out.

When we have a report of a strange phenomenon, "fact" or "faked" are the two least likely possibilities. The title is a false dichotomy. Far more likely is simple mistaken identification, as they demonstrate in their own segment mentioned below.

"Fact" and "faked" are much more sensational, and thus the title. A successful faked hoax is always interesting; and of course, the idea that the ghost turns out to be fact is extremely compelling. But so far no paranormal phenomenon has ever been found to be a fact, and successful hoaxes are quite rare. However, people think they see ghosts or UFOs or Bigfoots just about every day. They're almost always honestly mistaken -- at least, so far as we've found so far by studying solved sightings. The true causes are many and varied, and some are quite fascinating, particularly when we get into perceptual errors made by the brain. "Factual" phenomena have never yet been found; and "faked" phenomena are extremely uninteresting (IMHO).

For an insight into just how rigorous the Fact or Faked "investigations" are, see this short analysis of a popular segment by Blake Smith of Monster Talk. Be sure to catch their statement that the "leading scientific theory" for the cemetery apparition is that it's the ghost of an old train:

by Brian Dunning

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