Are science and the paranormal mutually exclusive fields of study? How do we reconcile the evidence of our observations, with the cold rigid parameters set forth by the scientific method? What is the scientific method? I’m so glad you asked. I don’t want to get too bogged down in the dogma but here is the cliffs notes version.
- Ask a Question
- Do background research.
Now here is where I depart from the classic model a bit. I think in a field as well populated with hearsay and downright BS as paranormal research it may be necessary to re-invent the wheel a bit. By this I mean don’t take the data that others have put out there verbatim. For one thing, there are no refereed journals or review boards for this kind of research. Let’s say that you want to do some work with EVP’s. I would look into the decibel ranges of the recordings others have captured, then I would look into frequencies, etc. Look for those parameters that can be reproduced. I would then use the averages as a base line to start my investigation. I’ll elaborate on this later.
- Form your hypothesis. Make an educated guess about the problem you want to find an answer to.
- Design an experiment to test your hypothesis. This can be the most difficult part of the process because it is difficult to divorce ourselves from the outcome we want to see. We have to do our best to remove bias from our experimental model. Here is a “for instance” If we take for granted that vampires exist, and that we can permanently kill them by driving a stake into their hearts, and I drive a stake into your heart, dear reader, and you die, well that means you were a vampire right? Yes I picked an absurd example, but I have seen research models set up with just about as ridiculous a premise, AND THEY GOT FUNDED!!!! Part of the job of the competent and honest scientist is to set up “Controls”. The word control tends to conjure up images of TV remotes, or something to manipulate or gaming consoles with, but in science, controls are standards to compare our experimental results to. They are rigged tests. The positive control is going to give a positive result every time, and the negative control is of course going to give a negative or null result every time. Here is an example. Let’s say we want to do an EVP session in an alleged hotspot. We set up one recorder to record nothing, maybe we put a dummy load into the external microphone jack of a recorder, and the other control would be a recorder that is being subjected to a tone generator at a given volume inside a Demeter box, which is nothing more than a portable sound resistant box used for recording music. It keeps external noises out, and keeps internal noises isolated inside the box. Now our third device is our experimental recorder that we hope to capture an EVP on. Wouldn’t be awesome if all 3 picked up the same EVP!
- Review your results and determine whether you gained any significant data. If you did, reproduce your work, and have other researchers try your protocol, and see if they get the same results. This is how real scientific research is done. If you get nothing, well Them’s the Breaks! It happens. Start at square one and see if you can figure out where you went wrong, or whether the conditions were just off that time. There is no such thing as One and Done, when doing research. Multiple replicates are a given. Failure is very much an option as well, but even failure is valuable. It helps point us in other directions, and discoveries along the way.
There are no short-cuts in true scientific research. The vast majority of the work is very detail oriented, and meticulous. And there are no guarantees that even if you do everything right, you will get a result. Now add to that the incredible odds against catching something paranormal at your research area and you can begin to understand how difficult it is to make any true progress in our fields. Granted it is more fun to run around in the dark waving meters, and digital recorders in the air, but nothing is being accomplished that will advance our knowledge. Photos, casts, recordings, all of it is interesting, but without any hard data to go with them, that is all they are, just curiosities, and click-bait. We who delve into the unknown are as much pioneers as any explorers who took to wooden ships on the seas of the Earth, and gambled on whether they would fall of the edge. What amazing discoveries they made. What amazing discoveries do we have the potential to make if we focus on a goal, and work towards it together.