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Paranormal skeptic tells students ghost stories aren’t real

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 01:10

Benjamin Radford wanted students to know he did not believe in ghosts.

According to the paranormal skeptic Benjamin Radford, who spoke to students about Bigfoot, Chupacabras and ghosts on campus Tuesday night, between 33 and 50 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, 70 percent believe that angels exist and 53 percent claim that they have been saved by a guardian angel.

Radford, the deputy editor of “Skeptical Inquirer,” a magazine aiming to promote inquiry into controversial claims, and author of hundreds of articles on broad topics concerning the paranormal, was quick to point out he’s not interested whether or not these phenomenons exist.

What he is interested in, though, is finding the truth and proving fact over fiction — and ghosts, he said, are likely not real.

“I want to find out what’s going on because the way I see it is if these things are real — if  Bigfoot is real, if ghosts are real, if aliens really are coming from across the universe to do graffiti in wheat crops and abduct people — then we need to know about it,” he said.

The TECO room in the Education Building was filled with students to the point where any seat left unprotected was fair game. An Intro to Ethics class was cancelled for the night and students were given extra credit if they chose to listen to Radford for an hour. Others simply came out of pure interest.

“I think it’s an interesting topic,” Shelby Hill, a senior majoring in anthropology, said. “It’s something everyone thinks about.”

Radford spent the majority of the hour discussing the evidence people tend to come up with and how ghost-hunter television shows aren’t as realistic as they may seem.

Ghosts that are seen in photographs as little white, round orbs, he said, are most likely just reflections.

Most evidence backing ghosts, he said, isn’t found using the scientific method.

But some were unconvinced by the presentation.

“I originally came here as a firm believer on a lot of the things, some of them I wasn’t really sure on,” Madison McDaniel, a freshman majoring in psychology, said. “It’s different hearing his opinion, but I believe in personal experience. If I see a ghost, I’m going to believe in ghosts.”

Radford said people are usually swayed by anecdotes and personal experience.

“There’s no better evidence for ghosts today than there was yesterday, last week, last month or two centuries ago,” he said. “If ghosts don’t exist, that explains why you don’t have any evidence on ghosts.”

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Sat Oct 20 2012 18:35
Michael, although I completely agree with you, it's a bit of a straw man argument.

The problem is not in what people see, but in how they interpret what they see. Mr. Radford doesn't deny the evidence. He provides explanations for that evidence which are much more likely to be accurate because they follow the laws of nature as we currently understand them. That's *exactly* how science works.

In other words, we should not believe that X (e.g., ghosts) exists simply because we *think* that we have seen a ghost. We should look for natural explanations for what we've seen. Unexplained phenomena should not be attributed to something which cannot be tested. That's giving up on finding out what really caused it.

Fri Oct 19 2012 11:08
When someone suffers a brain injury everything about their personality can be altered. people who have frontal lobe damage during a car acident can wake up and no longer lover their wife and kids, some people can't make new memories, some can't recognise faces, some can't read but can still right....... the brain is an amazing thing and a lot is know about the different parts of the brain and the job they do.
Here is my point if every part of your personality can be damage/destroyed by damaging the brain, how can something of your personality survive when the brain suffers catastrophic damage (death!!!).
there is no scientific evidence for an after life, Occam's razor tells us to go with the awnser that requires the least amount of assumptions.
Michael - Birmingham UK
Thu Oct 18 2012 12:56
If you actually 'see' something, but choose not to believe you have - just because there is no scientific corroboration that it can exist, then is this scientific? For me, such an attitude is unscientific. Science blinds itself with such attitudes.

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