Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ghost Stories

by Don Wharton

We had a couple of God believers join our discussion group earlier this month (July 2015). Perhaps that is the reason why some of our members decided to talk about ghosts stories. One member recalled talking with a friend and looking down a hallway seeing the shadow of someone crossing the hall. The two people both saw this image. They went down the hall, searched the area and confirmed that no one was actually there. Another person then shared a story about a friend that was taking a nap and had the tactile hallucination of someone placing a hand on them. He woke up and no one was there.

In both cases there was a story stating that a ghost existed in the house with a specific name and specific personality traits. But wait it gets even better. One of our members was ordered by her mother to not go out of the house one night when she was 16. She sneaked out of the house anyway and joined up with her sister. They drove around and got into a horrible auto accident. He mother showed up at the hospital at 6am steaming mad. She reported that she had a vision of an auto accident, including a nearby brick building and a red or orange car coming out from a side street to hit her daughter from the passenger side. She reported that was the reason that she ordered her daughter not to leave the house that evening. Supposedly she had not talked to the police to get these details. She then reported that whenever she plans to go on a plane trip she consults with her mother to see if she should go. In all cases her mother has said, “You're OK.”

I did not comment on these stories other than to say that there are billions of people on our planet and each of them will have many thousands of stories in their lives. It is statistically improbable that we would not have some of them that would appear strongly suggestive of supernatural phenomenon of one sort or another. I got named “snarky Don” during this discussion. I did not say anything other than the obvious epistemological comment noted above. I do confess to eye-rolling, looks of astonishment, face palming, etc.

My assertion here is that virtually everyone who wishes to explore supernatural actions as existing in their lives will accumulate such stories of supernatural causation. There are Christians who will assert that virtually everything positive that happens in their live deserves thanks to God. It is very routine for prize fighters to give thanks to God, as if all the work to hone skills and maintain high levels of stamina had nothing to do with it. This is obviously crazy but so are the acceptance of ghost stories of a less probable form.

I recall that some friends and I decided to if we might have ESP. We very rapidly accumulated a series of five events that seems to spectacularly confirm that we did have ESP. I can't recall all of them at this time since I reviewed the evidence and decided that there was really no evidence whatsoever for ESP. The only one that I do recall is that I was asked to think of a number between 1 and 100. I choose 37 and another member of our group guessed that number. Well in retrospect the fact that my phone number at that time started with 37 probable fully explained this one. I don't recall the other four tests for that we had for ESP but I am rather certain that most of our group would have found the list to be rather impressive if I reported them here.

I also recall on occasion having an impression of a shadowy object passing over part of my visual field. When this happens I would look more closely at the place where the motion appeared and conclude that nothing was there. The visual information that we receive outside the very center tends to be rather sparse. Much of what we see is an effort in our brain to construct a model of what we might presume to be out there. Some of that reconstruction is in error. If people are vulnerable to ghost stories and especially if they are talking with someone else who likes ghost stories then ghosts become very real. My guess is that my visual neurobiology is not radically different from those of others. If this is somewhat normal then we live in a universe that must of necessity have ghost stories.

My guess is that everyone reading this post has encountered at least one story or another that seemed to confirm magical phenomenon of one type or another. We need to ask the question, with massive numbers of stories occurring in every life what is the likelihood of such stories deriving by chance? Then there is the fact that such stories satisfy the criterion in religion studies of being “minimally counter-intuitive.” That is having at least one element that outside the normal to make it highly interesting and thus very likely to be repeated. This is why cultures of almost everywhere will accumulate the magical stories that become the basis of religion.

If it were possible for people to exist as coherent beings after death there would be some of them that would actively wish to be present in a lab environment to fully confirm their existence. That has not happened. If precognition could happen that again would have been confirmed in a lab situation. The military put much effort into an attempt to confirm “distance viewing.” Again there was one story strongly suggesting that there was something to it. However, after considering how many such possible stories were considered it became rather certain that one of them would in fact be that close to the reality that supposedly was being viewed.

1 comment:

Seed Press said...

Have you ever read any of Dean Radin's books?