The article, by Abigail Beall for Wired, "If ghosts were real, Brian Cox claims CERN would have found them by now", while somewhat interesting is typically shallow and rather a cheap shot.
I'm not anti-science - quite the opposite, actually - it's just that poor-quality, low-level science writing such as the article in question here get my goat.
For a start, it does not define what it means by 'ghosts'. Some kind of physical entity is assumed. As we know, there's more than one kind of phenomenon answering to the descriptor 'ghost'. Are we talking about the ghosts that mainly exist in the movies, such as in Peter Jackson's 'The Frighteners', where the comedy-ghosts don't even obey consistent laws of ghost-physics? Or the nastier type in the Paranormal Activity movie series that are able to physically interact with our environment, slamming doors and such, and with people, dragging them screaming out of bed and off to a grisly fate? No one believes that stuff, unless they've binge-watched too many scary movies and are seriously sleep-deprived.
Or are we talking about something more subtle, such as crisis apparitions - visions of family, friends or loved ones appearing at around the time of their death or other intense situation? (Telepathy, if it exists, could provide an explanation.) These occurrences are common and have been experienced by many reliable witnesses, testified to and corroborated in published accounts, such that crisis apparitions were held up as established fact by the SPR, whose research and findings are generally rigorous and skeptical.
And what about 'time slips'? The phantom Battle of Edge Hill was witnessed by many reliable people of good standing, but a couple of months after it happened!. Three military officers sent to the town to dispel the superstitious rumours all saw the apparitional soldiers and heard the fighting for themselves. There's the famous ghostly Roman soldiers, horses and all, seen by Harry Martindale and several other independent witnesses in the basement of the Treasurer's House in York, a case that has never been disproved. Poltergeists are something different again. So what, specifically, is claimed to be disproved by the scientists of CERN?
The so-called 'laws of physics', as with all scientific theories in other fields, are not set in concrete: scientific method dictates this; it is how science works. The vast majority of professional scientists are not engaged in searching for proof of any paranormal phenomena, so they are not going to find it. They mostly work within a career structure that does not permit research even on the fringes of the paranormal. The penalties for transgression may include loss of tenure, refusal of grants and funding applications, and severe ridiculing by peers.
Personally, I believe that explanations for many phenomena that are currently classed as paranormal will be found through scientific research and the resulting growth in the understanding of how nature and the cosmos behaves, and how human consciousness fits into this (once we have a better understanding of what consciousness actually is): but indirectly so. A holistic way of thinking will be needed to gain such an understanding. Most scientists are necessarily specialised, and it takes a genius mind with great powers of imagination to understand and bring together a range of specialised knowledge - perhaps from disparate fields - in such a way as to begin to understand the various paranormal phenomena, all of which are unique and highly complex.
The later part of the article dismisses ghosts as any kind of physical possibility but does not consider the idea of their occurring in a higher dimension and not having a presence in our familiar 3D spatial reality at all. For my part - and I have no way yet of proving this - it seems that ghosts are not part of this physical world in any sense but more likely are experienced only psychologically; that is, in the mind, be it telepathically or otherwise.
For this reason, it is unlikely there will ever be an undeniable photograph of a ghost, unless the camera can somehow capture that which is not physically present or a part of any objective reality. It may be that the human mind (and that of higher animals that can be thought of as possessing consciousness, or - if you prefer - a soul) as well as being the product of brain activity (the Materialists hold that it is nothing more than that) exists also in four-dimensional and perhaps higher-dimensional space, and therefore is not bound by time, at least in the linear way that we perceive it) but extends itself fore and aft of the present moment. The extent and strength of this projection may vary for a number of yet-unknown reasons, but it may be linked to the strength of a consciousness - willpower - and the emotional intensity of events it has experienced. (This is of course just speculation.)
So, once we start looking at ghosts not as theoretical, physical entities that can be filmed, weighed and measured, but as a range of phenomena which the human mind is somehow capable of perceiving, maybe in a space that is beyond the familiar three-spatial-dimensions-plus-time model that we're mostly intuitively comfortable with and struggle to think beyond, we may be onto something.
The Large Hadron Collider has only really been operating since 2010, and experimentation in particle physics began just in the 20th century, so it's all still pretty fresh territory. So who's to say what future discoveries will or will not be made by scientists using the LHC to explore nature and the cosmos? Probably not Brian Cox, and certainly the writer of the article in question, Abigail Beall.
Scientists, whether or not they're looking for an explanation of ghost experiences and other paranormal phenomena, will likely - eventually - provide us with the answers to the questions that have been around for centuries. We just need to keep up with new developments, not take an anti-science stance, and not be put off by articles such as Abigail Beall's that, if not actually pissing on the unwashed from a great height, are nothing more than negative and discouraging to those seeking explanations for unknown phenomena.
This isn't paranormal in itself, but it relates to thought processes for considering paranormal events.
Last weekend Wellington experienced a storm, with gale-force, cold southerly wind and a lot of driving rain. Venturing downstairs on Sunday morning, we found quite a bit of water on the floor of the laundry and downstairs room (my Man Cave). We mopped it up, put old towels around the doors, etc, to stop too much more water being driven in by the strong wind. The storm continued Sunday night, and Monday morning it was the same deal with the mopping and the towels. The storm slowly fizzled out and by Monday night it had become calm and dry outside.
Then on Tuesday morning, there was a whole lot more water downstairs. It was worse than the previous couple of days' inundation. So, wait a minute; the storm's over, but...
Investigation ensued. Not a paranormal investigation, but the same sort of detective work was needed. We looked under the house, on the roof, and up in the roof. Eventually the cause of the flooding was found to be a pressure tank in the ceiling (the cold water tank that provides pressure for the hot water cylinder), which was overflowing. The stopcock had failed and the tank was continuing to fill. Water from it was running along the ceiling and down the internal walls.
Up till that discovery, we'd been working under a false assumption: the driving rain from the storm (which was ferocious and hard to ignore) was the cause of the flooding. Although a little water had driven in under the back door and through the cat flap, we'd largely been fooled. The measures we'd taken over the last two days were ultimately ineffective. So once we'd discovered the true source of the water, we were able to do something effective about it: call a plumber!
The point of this is that for a long time we were labouring under a misconception. The storm had masked the true cause of the problem, leading us to a false assumption. Any action we took by following this assumption was ineffective. That the storm and the pressure tank fault happened at the same time was merely a coincidence. The result of our misconception was three days of water damage to the house that could've been much reduced. (We're still drying things out, a week later, and the damage inside the walls is probably permanent.) If the storm had not occurred, we would've traced the leak to its true source before it could do so much damage.
So, what has all this got to do with paranormal investigation? Well, the type of thinking that resulted in extra water damage is exactly the same as a lot of thinking (or lack of thinking) that goes on around paranormal investigations; before, during and afterwards. It was my own thinking that was wrong, and I've been in a few similar situations during paranormal investigations, where one apparent, major event masks a less obvious one. Or a false assumption about paranormal activity masks the true, natural reason for a set of events, maybe leading to someone's personal distress.
So, we shouldn't always settle on the most obvious conclusion without thinking around and beyond it. What if we're wrong because we're being misled?
This is one of the main reasons for working as a team. And, as in business, sports and elsewhere in life, a team formed of people who don't all think alike, a team where people are comfortable about questioning the assumptions of other team members, including the leader, is a stronger and more effective team. A team made up of paranormal believers will be more easily misled and thus less effective than one containing a people with a range of beliefs and views; from believer through agnostic through to skeptic. (It's fair to say, then, that a team comprising only skeptics and scientific thinkers would be equally ineffective in investigating the paranormal; they're more likely to miss stuff that people more open to the paranormal might more readily perceive.)
So, from this mundane plumbing issue, I have learned two lessons:
is a blog by James Gilberd - leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Strange Occurrences team.
James Gilberd is an amateur paranormalist, writer and musician, and a professional photographer, living in Wellington, New Zealand.