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Nothing out there apart from all the stuff that’s out there

From the Washington Post’s reliably irritating “On Faith” blog, Jeffrey Stanley writes about being the faculty adviser for a student-led paranormal investigation club while being a skeptic, but not happy about being a skeptic.

Friends and fans assume I am a true believer but the truth is that I am not. I am a healthy skeptic. And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there. I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.

Nothing? Why does he call it nothing? There’s a lot. The fact that he doesn’t think he can find magical stuff doesn’t mean there’s nothing.

He explains about “spirit boxes”…sort of.

You turn on a video or audio recorder to document your session.  You now ask a question into the air and await a response.  Sometimes the responses are immediate and crystal clear.  Others are difficult to understand beneath all the static and only come to light during amplified playback.  Some responses have to be slowed down and have their volume boosted to improve clarity.  In my experience, a five-minute recording might contain 20 or 30 audible “responses.”  Only about 10 of these will be easily understandable to the average listener.  So while the results are not as instantly gratifying or dramatic as using a Ouija board in front of an audience, the results after post-production can be quite stunning and difficult to explain away.

Skeptics will try, though. I chuckled when I first Googled “EVPs debunked” and read various naysayers’ biased conclusions. They generally start from their subjective presupposition that listening to the dead is impossible, then loop to their own self-gratifying conclusion that spirit boxes are indeed not receiving voices from the dead.

Wait, what? Their subjective presupposition that listening to the dead is impossible? Subjective? Really? Aren’t there very good objective reasons for thinking that listening to the dead is impossible?

This is like agnostic atheism, and science doesn’t have the tools to investigate the supernatural, again. Same old bullshit – it’s all a tossup either way; the two are evenly matched; it could be yes or it could be no and nobody knows anything either way. Yeah no that’s not right. It’s not just some stupid prejudice to think that the dead are dead. And what’s “self-gratifying” about that anyway? It’s the longing for immortality that provides the motive for wishful thinking, not the opposite.

Subjective presupposition nothing.

H/t The Morning Heresy.

Comments

  1. says

    And his subjective presupposition that he can hear messages in random static is soooo much more worthy of credence? Auditory pareidolia is the very definition of “subjective”.

  2. says

    There’s pretty much a template. Allow me to render it in meta for the semi-interchangeable bits:

    ‘People figure for some peculiar reason I’m credulous or somethin’. Oh no. I assure you, I’m totes skeptical!’

    [Spectacularly credulous claim]

  3. says

    Nothing? Why does he call it nothing? There’s a lot. The fact that he doesn’t think he can find magical stuff doesn’t mean there’s nothing.

    And that’s the tragedy (well, one of them) of the continued teaching of these myths. Believers have to take away from the real world, from real life, to give their qualities to imaginary realms and spirits. Then, for those who realize that these realms and spirits don’t exist, the real world seems empty and lifeless. Those who continue to believe fear abandoning their beliefs because they’d be plunged into this “reality.” Their entire relationship with the world and all of the beings and entities in it, including themselves, is profoundly corrupted.

  4. says

    … in other news, it may or may not be cynical of me, but I often think the ‘I wish I could believe this’ thing is as much about social complications and losing face as anything else.

    As in: you don’t wish you could believe there were a god/ghosts do subaudible spirit karaoke answering whichever trivia questions you pose them because you’re going to sink into some deep, black pit of existential depression* if it isn’t so. It’s more just that:

    a) it’s so bloody inconvenient, since you’re socially invested in a community that makes belief a de facto requirement for membership, and

    b) you’ve been seen in public repeatedly declaiming there is, and it’s gonna be pretty embarrassing to have to admit you were wrong/you were full of it, in whichever measure applies to you personally.

    (*/Yes, this is more or less from personal experience. I suppose it may just mean I’m too shallow for proper deep, dark despair. But then, I’m also cynical enough to figure a lot of that alleged deep, dark pit of despair stuff is cover for that other anxiety. As in: let’s pretend it’s that/let’s talk about that. It’s less embarrassing.)

  5. says

    I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering…

    Hope of WHAT? What’s so “hopeful” about thinking monsters under your bed may be real or your dead relatives may still be watching you in the shower and trying to tell you stuff?

    I don’t remember feeling any loss of hope when my parents told me there’s no such thing as ghosts. In fact, realizations like that made my universe a good bit less claustrophobic.

  6. says

    a) it’s so bloody inconvenient, since you’re socially invested in a community that makes belief a de facto requirement for membership, and

    Yes. And that’s related to what I was talking about above and what Sastra often discusses: that it’s all wrapped up in an image and identity of believers as somehow special and loving and positive people, in contrast to nonbelievers who lack that beautiful sensitivity and sense of mystery and wonder…

    In addition to the social-emotional difficulty of leaving any community, there’s the loss of identity – of that “spiritual” self-image believers spin around themselves.

    … in other news, it may or may not be cynical of me, but I often think the ‘I wish I could believe this’ thing is as much about social complications and losing face as anything else.

    As in: you don’t wish you could believe there were a god/ghosts do subaudible spirt karaoke answering whichever trivia questions you pose them because you’re going to sink into some deep, black pit of existential depression* if it isn’t so.

    I think it’s both/all, together.

  7. says

    Eamon – especially since he admits in passing that it has to be enhanced and fiddled with first. “Fiddle with it enough and it’s downright EERIE what you hear!!” [not a real quote]

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Another numbskull who thought Poltergeist and Amytiville House of Horror were feature-length documentaies.

    And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there.

    Can’t we just do a fundraiser to buy that irritating fucker a telescope? I’ve got one (finally. I only had to wait until the kids had grown up and left home and the mortgage was paid off) and I can assure him there’s quite a bit ‘out there’.

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