Why are people paranormal?

Paranormal is a general term that describes unusual experiences that lack a scientific explanation,[1] or phenomena alleged to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure.[2] In parapsychology, it is used to describe the potentially psychic phenomena of telepathy, extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, ghosts, and hauntings. The term is also applied to UFOs, some creatures that fall under the scope of cryptozoology, purported phenomena surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, and other non-psychic subjects.[3] Stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture and folklore, but the scientific community, as referenced in statements made by organization such as the United States National Science Foundation, contends that scientific evidence does not support paranormal beliefs.[4] Paranormal research Approaching the paranormal from a research perspective is often difficult because of the lack of acceptance of the physical reality of most of the purported phenonema. By definition, the paranormal does not conform to conventional expectations of the natural. Despite this challenge, studies on the paranormal are periodically conducted by researchers all from various disciplines. Some researchers study just the beliefs in the paranormal regardless of whether the phenomena are considered to objectively exist. This section deals with various approaches to the paranormal: anecdotal, experimental, and participant-observer approaches, the skeptical investigation approach and the survey approach. An anecdotal approach to the paranormal involves the collection of stories told about the paranormal. Such collections, lacking the rigour of empirical evidence, are not amenable to be subjected to scientific investigation. The anecdotal approach is not a scientific approach to the paranormal because it leaves verification dependent on the credibility of the party presenting the evidence. It is also subject to such logical fallacies as cognitive bias, inductive reasoning, lack of falsifiability, and other fallacies that may prevent the anecdote from having meaningful information to impart. Nevertheless, it is a common approach to paranormal phenomena. Charles Fort (1874-1932) is perhaps the best known collector of paranormal anecdotes. Fort is said to have compiled as many as 40,000 notes on unexplained paranormal experiences, though there were no doubt many more than these. These notes came from what he called "the orthodox conventionality of Science", which were odd events originally reported in magazines and newspapers such as The Times and scientific journals such as Scientific American, Nature and Science. From this research Fort wrote seven books, though only four survive. These are: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932); one book was written between New Lands and Lo! but it was abandoned and absorbed into Lo!. Reported events that he collected include teleportation (a term Fort is generally credited with coining); poltergeist events, falls of frogs, fishes, inorganic materials of an amazing range; crop circles; unaccountable noises and explosions; spontaneous fires; levitation; ball lightning (a term explicitly used by Fort); unidentified flying objects; mysterious appearances and disappearances; giant wheels of light in the oceans; and animals found outside their normal ranges (see phantom cat). He offered many reports of OOPArts, abbreviation for "out of place" artifacts: strange items found in unlikely locations. He also is perhaps the first person to explain strange human appearances and disappearances by the hypothesis of alien abduction, and was an early proponent of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Fort is considered by many as the father of modern paranormalism, which is the study of the paranormal. The magazine Fortean Times continues Charles Fort's approach, regularly reporting anecdotal accounts of the paranormal. [edit] Parapsychology Participant of a Ganzfeld experiment which proponents say may show evidence of telepathy. Main article: Parapsychology Experimental investigation of the paranormal has been conducted by parapsychologists. Although parapsychology has its roots in earlier research, it began using the experimental approach in the 1930s under the direction of J. B. Rhine (1895 – 1980).[5] Rhine popularized the now famous methodology of using card-guessing and dice-rolling experiments in a laboratory in the hopes of finding a statistical validation of extra-sensory perception.[5] In 1957, the Parapsychological Association was formed as the preeminent society for parapsychologists. In 1969, they became affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That affiliation, along with a general openness to psychic and occult phenomena in the 1970s, led to a decade of increased parapsychological research.[5] During this time, other notable organizations were also formed, including the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine (1970), the Institute of Parascience (1971), the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, the Institute for Noetic Sciences (1973), and the International Kirlian Research Association (1975). Each of these groups performed experiments on paranormal subjects to varying degrees. Parapsychological work was also conducted at the Stanford Research Institute during this time.[5] With the increase in parapsychological investigation, there came an increase in opposition to both the findings of parapsychologists and the granting of any formal recognition of the field. Criticisms of the field were focused in the founding of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (1976), now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and its periodical, Skeptical Inquirer.[5] Eventually, more mainstream scientists became critical of parapsychology as an endeavor, and statements by the National Academies of Science and the National Science Foundation cast a pall on the claims of evidence for parapsychology. Today, many cite parapsychology as an example of a pseudoscience. Though there are still some parapsychologists active today, interest and activity has waned considerably since the 1970s.[6] To date there have been no experimental results that have gained wide acceptance in the scientific community as valid evidence of the paranormal. [6] [edit] Participant-observer approach Ghost hunters taking an EMF reading which proponents say may show evidence of ghosts. While parapsychologists look for quantitative evidence of the paranormal in laboratories, a great number of people immerse themselves in qualitative research through participant-observer approaches to the paranormal. Participant-observer methodologies have overlaps with other essentially qualitative approaches as well, including phenomenological research that seeks largely to describe subjects as they are experienced, rather than to explain them.[7] Participant-observation suggests that by immersing oneself in the subject being studied, a researcher is presumed to gain understanding of the subject. Criticisms of participant-observation as a data-gathering technique are similar to criticisms of other approaches to the paranormal, but also include an increased threat to the objectivity of the researcher, unsystematic gathering of data, reliance on subjective measurement, and possible observer effects (observation may distort the observed behavior).[8] Specific data gathering methods, such as recording EMF readings at haunted locations have their own criticisms beyond those attributed to the participant-observation approach itself. The participant-observer approach to the paranormal has gained increased visibility and popularity through reality-based television shows like Ghost Hunters, and the formation of independent ghost hunting groups which advocate immersive research at alleged paranormal locations. One popular website for ghost hunting enthusiasts lists over 300 of these organizations throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.[9] [edit] Skeptical scientific investigation James Randi is a well-known investigator of paranormal claims. Scientific skeptics advocate critical investigation of claims of paranormal phenomena: applying the scientific method to reach a rational, scientific explanation of the phenomena to account for the paranormal claims, taking into account that alleged paranormal abilities and occurrences are sometimes hoaxes or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. A way of summarizing this method is by the application of Occam's razor, which suggests that the simplest solution is usually the correct one.[10] The standard scientific models gives an explanation for what appears to be paranormal phenomena is usually a misinterpretation, misunderstanding, or anomalous variation of natural phenomena, rather than an actual paranormal phenomenon. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is an organisation that aims to publicise the scientific, skeptical approach. It carries out investigations aimed at understanding paranormal reports in terms of scientific understanding, and publishes its results in its journal, the Skeptical Inquirer. Former stage magician, James Randi, is a well-known investigator of paranormal claims[11] and a prominent member of CSICOP. As an investigator with a background in illusion, Randi feels that the simplest explanation for those claiming paranormal abilities is often trickery, illustrated by demonstrating that the spoon bending abilities of psychic Uri Geller can easily be duplicated by trained magicians.[12] He is also the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation and its famous million dollar challenge offering a prize of US $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties.[13]