Sunday, March 4, 2012

Paranormal Unity and the Real World

During the past couple of weeks I've been sent messages on Facebook requesting me to support Paranormal Unity. I've also been sent messages to NOT support Paranormal Unity. I ignored both because, quite frankly, I don't feel the need to stress over a non-issue.

Paranormal Unity sounds like a nice idea. So does World Peace, but it ain't gonna happen. As I've said before, there are too many conflicting viewpoints, agendas and egos in the field for it to become a reality. Proponents for Paranormal Unity say we in the paranormal community all have the same goal. No, we don't. Some want to prove ghosts, meaning spirits of deceased people, exist. However, others want to prove they don't exist, and that paranormal experiences can be explained with science. And then there are those, like me, who fall somewhere in the middle. We believe in the possibility of ghosts, but we understand that we need find all other explanations first.

Opponents say that the concept of Paranormal Unity is being used impede honest criticism of paranormal teams' methods or evidence. To some extent, this may be true. Just saying "good catch" to make everyone happy won't get us any closer to valid answers in this field. Furthermore, it is a disservice to clients. We can't make any progress in the field if we cling to false positives presented as evidence. If it hurts someone's feelings when they are told their pictures of dust are not ghosts, then they need to consider these questions: are you really searching for "proof" or just a pat on the back? Are you really in it to help clients or just to look important in a fringe field?

I do agree with proponents there is a need to be more civil and respectful in dialogue. Berating, insulting and attacking people over dubious photos or EVPs is not "educating" them. It is the quickest way to make people defensive and reject any useful information you could impart. If people are truly in this field for valid research, they will be open to informed opinions presented in a civil, respectful way. I have personally learned that it is more effective to initially contact the person via email or private message, rather than post a comment about their evidence on their site or Facebook wall. That way, they save some face. After all, if my goal is to educate them, I don't need to do it in a public forum to prove what a smarty-pants I am. If they automatically reject my opinion or get defensive, then I know what kind of person I'm dealing with: someone who is more concerned with saying they're a paranormal investigator than actually being a paranormal investigator. Most of the time, at least in my experience, people have been receptive and open to dialogue when I have approached them in this manner.

Now, deliberate frauds are a whole other category. In my opinion, they are fair game. Since they choose to prey on the fearful and grieving for their own gain, then they deserve the consequences.

So instead supporting the flawed notion of Paranormal Unity, I simply encourage more civility in the field. That doesn't mean we all agree with each other, or give kudos for crap "evidence", or tolerate bogus equipment or practices, or that we keep our opinions and criticisms to ourselves. It means we strive to communicate like intelligent adults and exchange useful information to better the paranormal field.