Things that Make Me Go “Aaarrrggghhh”
This one’s a little different…a commentary on some issues that keep popping up from the “Paranormal Community” that get my blood going more than a little.
1) “There are no experts on the paranormal….”
Over the last 10 years, I’ve often hear this statement made by individuals at events, on blogs, on podcasts and even seen it in their books. They state this because, they say, there are so many questions about the phenomena we are trying to study (they seem to leave out the word experience), and no absolute proof of even the existence of psychic phenomena.
Correct. There are many questions about the phenomena AND the experiences. But clearly people have been having these experiences in some fashion since time immemorial, AND since the 19th Century, researchers and others have been collecting and investigating the experiences, both outside the lab (in “real life”) and under controlled conditions in the laboratory.
However, we in Parapsychology/Psychical Research HAVE learned much about the patterns of the experiences, about alternative, normal (though sometimes esoteric) explanations for some of the reports and experiences, the apparent behavior of the phenomena, and even some connections to environmental conditions. We have models for the phenomena which, if funding were properly available, are at least somewhat testable. We have hypotheses and even theories which can be tested.
So, when considering people educated in Parapsychology – whether via academic work or by participating in actual scientific research (this does not count most ghost hunting, by the way) – how are they NOT experts? Sure, people in my field have various strengths of experience and knowledge. My focus has been on spontaneous experiences (outside the lab), including apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists, but I know much about laboratory studies and findings. Others of my colleagues have expertise in experiences and research of remote viewing, psychokinesis, mediumship, and so on.
More maddening, however, is the fact that most of the folks stating “there are no experts” are doing it from a platform that somehow denotes “expertise.” They are main speakers at ghost events. They are authors. They are TV stars of ghost hunting shows. So, there are no experts except “me” – is that what they’re saying?
On top of it all, most of them often deny the need to know anything about Parapsychology – the only Science to actually study this stuff. Most of them denigrate some of the people in my field, or have never even heard of the top researchers/investigators. Or they have clearly misinterpreted or purposely changed the models, methodologies, and such they attribute to parapsychologists in order to make them fit their own models, methods, etc.
Or they tout how many investigations they’ve done (or for how many years), as if that gives them expertise….
It might, but with no understanding of what folks in my field already concluded, the mistakes made and corrected (the mistakes often being repeated by the “newbies”).
And remember: 30 years of bad methodology or bad assumptions is BAD experience. Makes one an expert in bad investigations and false conclusions, not any sort of expert on the phenomena.
2) I was recently shown an email statement from someone in a ghost hunting group that is similar to those I’ve heard/seen before: “Anyone who tries to sell you on classes or certifications is disreputable.”
Okay, this one I need to take in two parts. First, the “certification” issue.
I’ve made it clear again and again that one cannot be “certified” as a “ghost hunter,” or “paranormal investigator” and especially not as a “parapsychologist.” Certification implies a level of expertise in a subject or application of knowledge or in an activity, that the individual has passed some kind of testing to get certified, and that the person/body offering “certification” is empowered (legally and more importantly, ethically) to do so.
Most people who have never gone through a certification program (e.g.. in a Microsoft product, or a particular practice method in psychology, medicine, nursing, etc.) might have no clue as to what “certification” implies. In other words, some people offering certification simply are ignorant, not “disreputable.”
On the other hand, there are those who have demonstrated other behavior that might put them in that negative category. Some have been clearly advised that without approval by an established body such as the Parapsychological Association or even the Rhine Research Center or the Society for Psychical Research, or an actual academic source, the “certification” is relatively worthless – especially when it’s for being a “parapsychologist” when the actual materials don’t even have content from the field (more often than one would even believe). They have not corrected this issue, and therefore are doing what they’re doing in a knowing way, no longer in ignorance.
As for me, I continually have to correct people asking me about or referring to my own Parapsychological Studies Program (through HCH Institute) as a “certification.” It’s not, and it’s never been. It’s a series of non-academic courses providing a deep introduction to several major areas of Parapsychology, and completing all the courses earns the students a “Certificate of Completion” (kind of a non-academic diploma). A certificate is not the same as a certification.
As to the second part, dealing with classes …
I’ve heard many say something as the quote above, or more commonly “you can’t teach this stuff.”
To which I have to reply: Any class in any arena of human endeavor is only as good as the person who put it together and/or teaches it, and the content of the class.
Parapsychology/Psychical Research as an over 130 year history. Courses in the subject have been and continue to be taught at accredited universities in many countries, though sadly the US has fallen behind in the number of colleges offering even a single course due to severe academic prejudice (the UK leads the pack). Courses have and continue to be at the graduate school level, not just the undergrad.
I not only went through a full academic, accredited university graduate program in Parapsychology (JFK University had one from the late 70s until the late 80s), I ended up back at the university after graduation teaching several of those graduate level courses, including a field investigations class.
Others in my field have taught university classes in field investigations, or at least covering the phenomena and experiences of apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists.
Such a statement comes from someone with an agenda of their own (or, if I’m to be charitable, somebody who’d been “taken” by a phony at some point and is too embarrassed to admit it). Perhaps the agenda is to turn people away from the possibility of learning something very real as opposed to what they’ve learned from other ghost hunters (or heaven forbid, from the TV shows). Perhaps it’s because they have been taken in by ghost hunters who learned their “craft” from watching paranormal shows and taught crappy courses (always seeming to miss anything about Parapsychology).
Or perhaps it’s because they want people to come to them for information, like the people who claim there are no experts.
Personally, I’ve been dedicated to educating the general public about Parapsychology, to helping to off-set the often fearful images of ghosts and such, to educate the members of the media to really look at the questions inherent in psychic experiences (which include poltergeists, ghosts, and hauntings). I push hard against the ignorance of my field in an ever growing “community” that claims to want to study the phenomena, to prove its existence, but seems to be resistant to even considering that there’s a history, literature, and group of scientists who’ve been doing this for more than 100 years longer than their favorite TV shows.
I’ve often felt like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, and statements like the ones quote here just give me more of a headache.
Sometimes I just want to be like William Shatner on the classic Saturday Night Live sketch telling over-the-top Trekkies to “Get a Life!”
There’s more, but this is enough of a rant for now. But one last comment…
Ask questions of the speakers, the “experts,” the “scientific investigators,” the authors and those teaching classes (and certainly those offering “certifications”).
Ask questions of ME. I’m always happy when someone is consumer-smart enough to ask questions like “what do I really get out of taking your classes?” and “why are you qualified to teach these classes or call yourself an expert?”
That leads to a conversation. Conversation is good. Blanket statements are not (hmmm…that’s a blanket statement in itself, so maybe that’s not good…. :-)