Paranormal Investigation and Beliefs

Joe believes UFOs are from other planets and navigated by aliens with a dark agenda.
Nathan thinks it's all government craft being tested secretly.

One night, the two men are sitting in the back yard around a fire pit, drinking some beer, talking about their camping plans the next month when Joe distractedly stares off into the night sky. Nathan lifts his head and looks up too. 

A series of three white lights moving in a steady course are moving towards them. The lights are getting brighter and brighter. Then, one at a time, the lights go out.

"That was weird." Nathan remarks.
"It was silent." Joe marveled. "There were no blue or red blinking lights. That wasn't a plane or helicopter."
"Well, it turned its lights out." Nathan responded.
"No!" Joe shakes his head. "It took off fast."

Two men, having witnessed the same physical activity, each interpreting it within the context of their beliefs. Since Nathan doesn't believe in alien technology, he saw what happened as an explainable craft. To Joe, however, it had exceptional qualities that prove it was a UFO.

It's nearly impossible to enter paranormal research without some beliefs. If you are looking for Bigfoot, you more than likely believe they exist. If you believe ghosts are the souls of the dead trapped in the earthly plane, then you will view activity in that mental context.

Let's look at some of the traps that belief creates -

Pareidolia.  This is the very human tendency to see faces in shapes. We look at a photo of the forest and within the leaves, we think we see a Bigfoot or perhaps looking at photo of a room in a creepy house, we think we see a face in the woodwork. Once you have equated that shape with a face, it's almost impossible NOT to see the face. 

Do you see Jesus's face above? It's actually a baby on her father's lap. Her bonnet is the "forehead" of Jesus, her sleeve is the "nose" and her shirt is the "cheek." But, once you see that Jesus face, it is almost impossible to see a baby instead.

Orbs:  There are those who entered paranormal investigation and believe that orbs are the spirits of the dead being captured in photos. Once they believe that, it's difficult to shake them of that illogical correlation. No matter how bright an orb is, it is simply an issue of our modern digital cameras. This showed up when digital cameras were marketed and the flash, being near the lens, causes everything in the air, all particles of dust, pollen and moisture, to be lit by the flash and make these dazzling "phenomena" in which hardcore believers see "faces." (see pareidolia above)


Dust shaken from a dust broom.  

Sprinkler droplets 

EVPs:  Electronic Voice Phenomena is an amazing thing. In the right circumstances, one seems to pick up a voice that wasn't heard at the time of recording. However, getting a Class A recording (one that, when everyone listens to it, they hear the same words without prompting) is exceedingly rare and because we expect an answer to the question, we often "hear" the words we think answers the question. A simple waft of air like a sigh becomes the answer, "yes," and a garbled word is surely the intestigator's name.  

Debunking:  Debunking, or finding explainable reasons for phenomena are critical. Many people hear sounds in the dark and then never go to investigate what might have caused it. They avoid testing the windows, the heater and pipes, looking for electrical wiring issues and other common causes of the odd and unexplained. If an investigator is afraid that explaining something unusual means throwing the baby out with the bathwater, that is far from the truth. Just because some things can be explained, does not mean there is not still plenty of unexplainable phenomena occurring in the world.

Limited Investigations:  Let's say you learned your ghost hunting from TV and your Bigfoot tracking? So, now you think you know what they are and how they work. You do wood knocking and call blasting. You use your EMF meter and laser grid. You believe you know how Bigfoot lives and how he communicates and what ghosts are made of and how to find them. The thing is, we can't learn a thing if we follow beliefs based on what others told us. Perpetuating beliefs without question is an intellectual corruption. 

So, how do we go about entering a field of paranormal study without letting our beliefs color us? By accepting that we have beliefs, but also allowing that because we believe something exists, does not mean that we will readily run into evidence of it. If you are firm in your belief, evidence will not sway it one way or the other. Enter the field saying "I have no idea what this is or how it works" and design the best ways possible to narrow the field of possibilities. When you open your mind, you open the science.