Every now and then I come across something in the paranormal field that takes me beyond the typical “I disagree” or “That’s just silly” to a rousing “Who do they think they are?”
Let me preface the following by explaining that I tend to be a bit of a purist when it comes to words. Words have meaning. Someone unilaterally deciding that a word should be redefined tends to bug the piss out of me.
Also, at the risk of sounding hypocritical, I get very tired of persons or groups implying that they are authorities in this field without producing the evidence to support such a claim.
I would like to make it VERY clear that I do not claim to be an expert nor an authority in the field of the paranormal. The goal of my writing and speaking engagements is to encourage people in the field to think for their selves, question what they have heard, and to learn as much as they can from as many sources as they can.
A while back I sort of got sucked into a conversation on Twitter about a piece of evidence in particular, but about skepticism in a broader context.
Let me see if I can set this up without boring you. My friend, Jim Malliard of the Malliard Report was working on a project where he would post “paranormal standards”. Of course the format of Twitter doesn’t leave a lot of room to elaborate on what is the idea and reasoning behind the standard.
One particular post said something to the effect that one still picture isn’t evidence. I took it to mean that because a single picture is a moment in time with no supporting data to reflect the conditions and environment present that it will always going to be an unreliable and easily dismissed data point.
Someone decided to argue the point by posting a picture that they had taken (presumably on a cell phone) that in his or her opinion obviously contained a shadowy demon-looking pig-man thing of some sort.
Pareidolia: Misperception in which vague or random images or sounds are misinterpreted as meaningful patterns.
Early in 2014 on a Friday Night Paranormal I-Con episode, I had a spirited, but civil, discussion about a piece of evidence that a guest had centered a lot of time and analysis around and presented on his web site.
My thesis was NOT that there was nothing to be found in the photograph in question. I even offered that I found one feature of the photograph very interesting and probably would have placed it on my own website for further examination and discussion had it been mine. My point was that if we spend enough time (several days according to the guest) looking a picture, pareidolia (or matrixing if you prefer the pop-culture term) was likely to take over, and our minds are programmed to find any number of patterns that we might interpret as recognizable images that we will then feel obligated to circle in red.