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SKEPTOID BLOG:

IMO: Ghosts

by Mike Weaver

March 4, 2014

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I have confession: I love ghosts. Well, it's more correct to say that I am in love with the concept of ghosts. Spooky stories, spine-tingling tales, creepy cautionary tales, haunted houses, I enjoy the whole shebang. I have yet to ever see a ghost, though. At least, not that I know of. I got to thinking about the whole ghost idea, given the paucity of good evidence. So, here's my opinion on the reality of ghosts.

I'll save you time, I don't think they are real. Thanks for reading!

Seriously, though, as much as I'd like ghosts to be a legitimate thing, I cannot in clear conscience accept them as a real phenomenon. There are many lines of thought on this, from my perspective. Time for a thought experiment.

For our experiment, let's start with some assumptions. I'm going to assume that the earth is around 4.54 billion years old. I'm going to assume that modern humans have been walking the earth for around 200,000 years. So, how many people have died, since modern humans existed? The Population Reference Board has done the leg work (with more than a little guess-work to cover the vast stretches of time without any good historical data, that is, most of human existence) and they calculate the total number of people who have ever been born as of 2011 as 107,602,707,791. Subtract the estimated world population in the mid-2011 of 6,987,000,000 and you get something around 100,615,707,791 folks who are now dead, in the history of humanity. [1] That's a lot of folks. There should be plenty of ghosts around.

This leads me to my first line of thought on ghosts. Where are they? Sure, there are plenty of stories, but given that there are over ten times as many dead as there are living on the earth (if you include all humans, ever), there should be so many ghosts that we'd be tripping over the things (if one could trip over a ghost). Maybe ghosts don't get created from every death. Fair enough. Let's say maybe only really violent deaths, or murders, or war, or suicide, or a really tragic accident (I've heard ghost stories with each of these premises) form ghosts. Maybe one death in a million would produce a ghost. That'd leave over 100,000 ghosts. Again, where are they? That's plenty for most folks to maybe have encountered a ghost. That's plenty for investigators to have a good chance of finding one and documenting it.

This leads to the second line of thought. Where's the evidence? There is a huge amount of terrible evidence for ghosts. The vast majority of the evidence is anecdotal, often second or third hand at that. The remainders consist of poor quality films and photos, highly suspect audio recordings, and other bits and pieces. As a side note, it's easier to hear satanic messages on an old record played backwards than hear any voices in the majority of EVP I've listened to. Here's a little thing you can try. Before you listen to an EVP clip, if at all possible don't read what the investigators say is on the clip. Write down what you hear, if anything, and compare it to what they said they heard. It's often an illuminating glimpse into audio pareidolia. When a phenomenon is real, eventually evidence will show itself with sufficient study. Maybe we just don't have the technology to capture evidence of a ghost. If the stories and reports are to be believed, ghosts can be seen and, in some cases, touched. If you can see it, you can photograph it. The chemicals in film react to the same light our eyes see, not to mention digital chips. Perhaps there is some other quality of ghosts that prevent us from getting good evidence.

This leads me to my third line of thought. What are the rules about ghosts anyway? The reports, stories, and anecdotes give conflicting reports. Are they able to be solid? Visible? Can they influence the world? Can they read minds or project thoughts into minds? Do they retain memories and personalities of the person they once were? Some ghost stories seem to indicate this. Others do not. The whole ghost literature is contradictory and inconsistent. Why, for instance, do we use EMF meters in ghost hunts? Thermal cameras? Digital voice recorders? Do we know that ghosts are electromagnetic phenomenons? That they change the ambient temperature? That they can only whisper their otherworldly messages in recorders? Or, perhaps, are they neat gadgets that give us just enough information for our minds to project our preconceptions upon them?

The more I think about ghosts, the more I talk myself out of them existing. I can't say definitively that ghosts do not exist. It's devilishly difficult to prove a negative, after all. All I can say is that I don't think it's likely.

I do love them, though.

Be well.

[1] http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

 

by Mike Weaver

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