Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!)

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September 22, 2013 by kittynh

The one thing about being a skeptic that never changes is that people love to tell you how you are doing it wrong.

They of course are doing it “right”, and any personal touches you put on how you define and conduct yourself as a skeptic is taken as an insult on how they choose to define and conduct themselves as skeptics.  I rarely try to even define the word skeptic except as “someone that has not bought into something 100% and would like to investigate more”

It is not as if we are given tattoos with our skeptic number so we can all identify each other.  Skeptics do hold conferences, they have speakers (and those that are chosen to speak should feel honored, I know I would be not only honored but grateful), and they give out prizes for best blog and podcast and book and articles.  Still, “skeptic” has no one definition.

I work with a Bigfoot group and each of them is a skeptic.  Even those that believe in Bigfoot, don’t believe the creature is an alien.  Then there are the people I meet that believe in aliens, but Bigfoot there is ‘just plain silly.”

I’ve even been told that there are plenty of people that believe in ghosts that are also atheists.  In fact, when I expressed surprise at this, the reaction was anger from someone that could not believe I am so prejudiced against paranormal atheist believers (in ghosts, not any gods) as to stereotype them. You don’t need God for ghosts. (I am still confused how having an afterlife, or something after you die, works without some mystic religious aspect. I was told to “stop being so rude” when I asked for details. I’m not saying it can’t happen, I just want to know more.  That’s the problem with being a skeptic, I ask questions, and yes I do try to be polite.)

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Still, one thing that the really wonderful paranormal people I work with agree on is that we hate hoaxes, (and I try to work with people that I get along with, as it’s really a lot more relaxing to hang out with nice people).  Hoaxes are often brought to light by people that are firm believers in Bigfoot or Aliens or almost anything.  No Bigfoot believer likes the costume in the freezer.  Whenever someone makes a hoax, be it UFO, alien, Bigfoot or ghost, it makes it more difficult for a believer to promote whatever good evidence they think they have.  UFO believers point out that perhaps 5% of all UFO reports can’t be easily explained.  That leaves a good percentage that can be, and another big chunk that are hoaxes.  If believers and skeptics have to hunt through all those hoaxes, it wastes a lot of time,  We all need to focus on that 5%.

There are those that, for whatever reason, accept every bit of evidence as legitimate.  While most Bigfoot groups say “bear with mange” and move on, there are those that will say “Well, that’s  a weird looking creature, probably some sort of Bigfoot”.  My Bigfoot group believes in Bigfoot enough that they really think legitimate good evidence is out there, and throw out anything that is not in the least traditional Bigfoot looking.  A monkey swinging from a tree, is a hoax, or just a monkey swinging from a tree.  A bear with mange is weird looking, but not Bigfoot looking.  Groups that throw all the evidence in one pile, good, bad, hoax and plain old weird, just end up with a big pile of crap.  There might be something good hidden in there, but who really wants to dig through all that mess to look for it?

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ghost of photoshop? who has the time?

Paranormal groups I work with, and paranormal believing friends, know that they only need one bit of good evidence to prove what they feel they already know, or strongly suspect.  One bit of good DNA, one bit of wreckage from a UFO, one alien saying “OK I will go on ‘Dancing with the Stars'”.  They take great hope in that they only need one piece, one good break, one dead Bigfoot/alien/chupacabra and even a government conspiracy can’t keep the truth away from the world.

This hope is dashed again and again when bad DNA reports pop up, or costumes end up in freezers and aliens show up on TV in horribly poorly done autopsy shows.  Paranormal investigators that really care, while happy that reality TV has brought their numbers up, also lament that it has not brought the quality or amount of evidence up.  I admire how they don’t give up, but I also admire most those that don’t let their standards of evidence slip.  It can be frustrating to keep looking, but it’s something most of them truly enjoy doing.  We so often forget, this is just plain old fun.  I know I enjoy ghost hunting, Bigfoot looking and yes even peeking just one last time for a lake monster, as much as anyone else.

Too many ghost groups still post orbs made by dust and snowflakes.  Too many Bigfoot groups just bang trees instead of asking “What can we do differently?”.  Too many UFO hunters take bad photographs and don’t join local astronomy groups and figure out just what they should be taking photographs of.  Also, many groups, and we don’t give them enough credit, enjoy helping expose hoaxes and are glad to work with a skeptic that can help make suggestions.

So, why do paranormal groups need skeptics?  Well, I often hear, “why don’t they just get a scientist to help them!”  Scientists are doing…. science.  While there are perhaps many biologists and astronomers and other scientists that would love to help paranormal groups, they have also spent a lot of money and time becoming scientists.  Reputation wise, it’s not perhaps the wisest career move to spend your weekends, and precious free lab time if you have any, investigating Bigfoot or alien implants.  Though there are good scientists working on DNA studies and that offer these services, we have to remember it’s not free.

It costs money to run tests.  So figuring out just what is worth testing and what is not worth testing, requires some critical thinking skills.  My own group is very careful in how we collect potential DNA now, so that it is in the best condition is can be for testing.  We also have a local wildlife expert willing to look at any scat found to see if off hand he can identify it. If we are going to pay to have a sample tested, we want to make sure it’s the best sample possible. While I am “just a skeptic” I was able to help make these changes by being the “token skeptic”.  Saving money is always welcome.

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sure it’s fun to hang with people like James Randi and this MIT PhD, but paranormal investigators committed to finding out the truth are fun also.

Skeptics of course should like paranormal groups that help get the word out about hoaxes.  In fighting between paranormal groups is a plus, it keeps each group checking and rechecking (often with the help of those big S Skeptics) purported evidence.  Hoaxes waste time, and even poor evidence that it touted long after it’s due date, hurt in the search for the truth.  While the paranormal believers are coming from the stance of “I want to convince you” and the skeptics are coming from “you have to convince me”,  most of us are after the truth.

When paranormal investigator websites, articles and podcasts join with skeptic websites, articles and podcasts in exposing hoaxes, the word gets out much more quickly! Working together with respect is a plus for both sides.

While one side proclaims “How much proof do you skeptics NEED?” and the other cries back “MORE! And how about something good this time?” , it doesn’t mean we can’t get along!

7 thoughts on “Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!)

  1. […] Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) (yankeeskeptic.com) […]

  2. PaoloV says:

    Well said! I would also add that there may be no single agreed definition of ‘skeptic’, but there are other terms out there that can be applied to certain approaches taken by self-identified Skeptics.

    Pseudoskepticism is rife in Skeptic community, where asking for further evidence is frowned upon because apparently all the answers are already known. Even acknowledging that 5% (or 1% or 0.0001%) of evidence may not be easily explainable could trigger apoplexy in some pseudoskeptics.

    Pseudoskeptics give the rest of us a bad name.

  3. Research of any kind needs peer review. Unfortunately in investigating anomalous situations, skeptics are all we have. I welcome the dissection of my researech. Who wants to waste time on a dead end artifactual finding? The problem I have is when you encounter a skeptic who lacks objectivity. Objectivity is vital in any analysis. I believe it is the duty of science to investigat the unexplained, not explain the uninvestigated. We need to find the answers, even if they aren’t the answers we are looking for. Good article.

  4. […] Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) (yankeeskeptic.com) […]

  5. […] Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) (yankeeskeptic.com) […]

  6. […] Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) […]

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