- Paperback: 412 pages
- Publisher: PROMETHEUS BOOKS; 1 edition (1 June 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616145854
- ISBN-13: 978-1616145859
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.2 x 21.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 590 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Science Of Ghosts, The Paperback – 1 Jun 2013
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"This is it—the definitive book on ghosts from a scientific perspective written by the world's foremost science-based ghost hunter. Joe Nickell has once again risen to the challenge of attempting to explain what are often seemingly inexplicable one-off anomalous events by employing the best science and technology available for each and every case of the most prominent ghost sightings and experiences in history. Nickell is the go-to guy for all things paranormal and with this book he has once again asserted himself as a fair and careful investigator whose conclusions we can trust." --Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of The Believing Brain
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
One interesting thing brought up that I never really thought about myself- why exactly do ghosts wear clothing? Aren't they existing in a different plane of 'spiritual' existence? How then did non-spiritual, material items 'pass on' along with them?
Other, probably even better scientifically based paranormal books exist, (I have two in mind to read), but this book I believe is the only one dealing solely with ghosts/spiritualism. Recommended if the interest in the subject is there.
As the Great Carl Sagan was found of saying "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". You say you seen a ghost or a house that is haunted, then show me the evidence. Read this book and great insight into the way a real investigation is carried out.
"I have tried to avoid the approach of "believers" and "debunkers" who too often start with an answer and work backward to the evidence, looking just for that which seems to support their prior convictions, thus exhibiting what is termed 'conformational bias'. I have sought instead to discover the best evidence, and let it lead to the most likely solutions, following the precept known as Occam's razor, which holds that the simplest tenable explanation - the one requiring the fewest assumptions - is the most likely correct."
Agreed that this is a valid approach, but was it truly followed? From the introduction:
* Ghosts defined "most commonly" as " vampires, ghouls and zombies"
* If non-solid, "typically viewed as a type of spirit ... angels and demons, elves, fairies, ... and some types of monsters"
* Ghosts are, by definition then, allegedly paranormal
And to define paranormal, ref: Wikipedia and various dictionary sources:
* Beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation.
* That indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure.
* Pertaining to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation, as psychokinesis, extrasensory perception, or other purportedly supernatural phenomena.
* Seemingly outside normal sensory channels.
They do use the qualifiers 'seemingly' and 'purportedly' in some definitions, but in essence, they define paranormal as *non-real* phenomena. So since the author purports to present an objective analysis, 'paranormal' need be stated as tentative, with the zombies and vampires cast aside.
The book is in four parts:
Part 1, "The Haunting Impulse", which deals primarily with our 'predisposition' to 'want to believe' in the non-physical, due in many cases to religious tautologies, as well as the hope and desire for a hereafter. It also covers phenomenon not motivated accordingly, but since desires of that ilk are germane to alleged 'fantasies', I'll focus only on that.
In this section, Nickell provides an interesting but brief history of man's penchant for supernatural belief, from the Old Testament and early Catholic Church onward, citing various mostly English writers who took opposing sides. From 'The discoverie of witchcraft' to 'The Certainty of the Worlds of spirits', where he dismisses alleged incidents as explainable as 'waking dreams', a present day attempt by science to explain away any and all spiritual encounters. The waking dream premise is cited throughout the book, but keep in mind that while this state of consciousness can occur, it is not disproof that an actual paranormal event can occur.
Known contrived or delusional epics are revealed, but if a truly objective evaluation of NDE experiences was to be done, case histories of where there was strong evidence of validity due to unexplained data were NOT presented. Two examples are where during surgery, cardiac and brain function ceases, but the recovered patient has seen non-trangressed areas of the hospital, or heard words uttered by personnel during the bodily outage. Asking a tenured surgeon or nurse can be revealing, although they often shun interviews, and for good reason!
The bulk of the book, Parts 2 & 3, cite case after case that were either debunked, or simply denied legitimacy by the author as either in violation of scientific evidence, and in some cases in violation of parsimony (Occam's Razor), which promotes the simplest explanation as the most viable, IOW anything involving the currently unknowable is therefore false, due to its unanswerable complexity. Occam's Razor is often employed as a subjective way of dismissing anything out-of-hand that may not fit a consensus paradigm, ergo physical matter is "all there is!"
Part 4 covers the history of ghost hunting, which predates the middle ages, and has become popular today, due to films like 'Ghost Busters', 'Ghost' with Patrick Swayze, and the current 'Ghost Hunters' TV show. Rule it as entertainment only, but there is much current supportive data. I myself performed experiments over a two year period, 1961 to 1963 with non-corporeal contacts, some done double-blind, and with numerous mental exchanges. I neither then nor now had/ have any motives to contrive or deceive, only a penchant for investigative science. And to continue on after death, I could care less, although there is ample evidence of an ongoing existence. Either way, reality rather than 'wishful thinking' will rule the day.
Simply due to known frauds, and various synaptical brain experiments, is methodological naturalism a hard established fact within bio systems? Current data from quantum theory observations overtly defy Newtonian and even aspects of Einsteinium physics. To attribute all life in the Cosmos to carbon based molecule constructs, and cognition to synaptic activity may be short sighted. A 'center' of consciousness has yet to be defined within the brain, simply an interface to sensory input and bodily functions.
So is it rational to overtly rule all spiritual data as either fraud or delusion based on certain known instances? Many/ most of known cases where someone perceives a relative dying before the phone rings, or has a spiritual visitation is by one who has absolutely no desire to lie about the event, nor whom covets an a priori delusional mindset. Events such as these are ubiquitous in today's world AND throughout history, as are NDE occurences with supportive data.
The author states up front that objectivity is his goal, "approach[ing] the subject with an open mind, convinced that paranormal claims should be carefully examined with the intent of explaining them." Or as I took it, explaining them away.
While the book is engrossing and entertaining to a high degree, and while an inclusive chronicle of myths and falsehoods over the ages, it fails to chronicle confirmatory data where extant, a requirement of true rational thought. And rather than confirmatory bias in support of a priori notions by the public, I see the shoe on the other foot. It appears more probable that it is the science community and their Skeptic cohorts that are struggling with 'conformational bias'.