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Making ghosts of mysteries

by Eli George - Posted March 28, 2006

Applying Science to the Paranormal
Ben Radford, writer and investigator, gave a lecture 'Applying Science to the Paranormal' Friday night at the Center for Inquiry.

Just as its name proclaims, the Center for Inquiry is a place for rationality and critical questions.

That rationality was put to the test Friday, March 24, 2006, when seemingly radical theories on the paranormal became the center's focus, at least for one evening.

For a lecture titled "Applying Science to the Paranormal," writer and investigator Ben Radford brought his critical attitude to psychics, Bigfoot, and a Lancaster home that was reported to be haunted.

Radford works for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and has been in the paranormal business for 10 years, during eight of which he operated in Buffalo.

Though the presentation may have sounded like it was meant to utilize science in paranormal research, it was really just the opposite: using science to undercut the unfounded and irrational beliefs of certain myths. Radford himself even displayed this idea with the pin on his shirt, reading "The Real Ghostbusters."

At the very start Radford said, "The theme tonight is evidence and the illusion of evidence."

Radford went on to explain that evidence is something tangible and scientific, something that can be measured and explained.

For an example of the illusion of evidence, he started with his mother's idea that deaths come in threes. After Princess Diana and Mother Theresa died, she wondered who would be next. This notion, though, is ridiculous, Radford said, because anyone could be the third to which his mother responded that it had to be someone well known and beloved. He noted that Jimmy Stewart had died a few weeks prior to Mother Theresa.

If the criteria are not predefined, it is not really evidence. Why not make it deaths come in four, ten and twenties?

After getting his main point across, Radford began with psychics, naming names like Sylvia Brown of the "Montel" show as examples of famous clairvoyants he feels are deceptive. He said that psychics' contradictory and vague feelings are not information.

"What's amazing is how consistently they're wrong," Radford said.

Story continues at

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