Today I came across this article in a local paranormal group that I am a part of (partly out of interest, and partly because I am friends with some of the groups founders). This article looks to have been posted back in 2009. But more importantly, it makes some interesting (and quite questionable) claims.
People seeing ghosts? There may be a genuine mind-body foundation for such anomalous perceptions, according to two researchers, Michael Jawer and Marc Micozzi, MD, PhD. Their book, The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion, suggests that sensing a presence, seeing an apparition, or feeling energy around a person or place may be related to the workings of the limbic system — the “emotional brain” — as well as a personality type that rapidly registers feelings.
As surveys consistently show that anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the public say they’ve had an extra-sensory experience — with nearly 25% of respondents stating they’ve actually seen or felt a ghost — anomalous perceptions are nothing to shrug off. “People have had these experiences down the ages and across all cultures,” comments Micozzi, a physician and anthropologist. “They’re quite universal. What we’ve begun to document is that there’s a certain type of person most likely to experience them.
And right off the bat, I am skeptical. Because nothing is being said (with the exception of the proposed theory) that is not already obvious to even the casual observer of all things paranormal.
A good chunk of respondents to a survey say they they have seen a ghost, or otherwise had a paranormal experience. That is not at all surprising. Because I am thinking that if one asked many of these individuals questions such as if they believe in some form of a god or if they thought that some form of conspiracy theory was true, you would likely get overlap.
This does not invalidate the claims of paranormal “experience”. But it does shed some light on how the person personally defines “evidence”. In fact, in many cases, the language utilized is a giveaway to how the person defines evidence. Which is important if you want a good “scientific” survey that is not skewed by questionable results.
Well, many will always view the results of such a survey as questionable. This is completely understandable (when it comes to this topic, I border very close to that edge in terms of my skepticism). However, the follow up questions on both deity and conspiracy theory are a good way to test how people perceive claims without external evidence to back them up.
Let me explain.
No matter what may (or may not) be the cause of a paranormal experience, such experiences have a real notable impact on a person. You see something, you hear something, you feel something. Indeed this is nothing more then anecdotal and circumstantial “evidence”, but it is more then what is often associated with conspiracy theory or a deity.
Now to the other part of the quote, the bit about there being a certain type of person who is likely to have a paranormal experience. Again, this adds nothing new to the field. We already know that some people are apparently /allegedly more “sensitive” to this sort of thing, and that most of these people also happen to be self diagnosed.
That person is environmentally sensitive, according to Jawer, an expert on the condition known as Sick Building Syndrome. “Our data show that anomalous perceptions parallel other forms of environmental sensitivity, such as having pronounced or longstanding allergies, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, irritable bowel, even synesthesia (overlapping senses) and heightened sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell. Women make up three-quarters of this sensitive population but there are other markers as well: being ambidextrous, for instance, or recalling a traumatic childhood. The more we look at the people who say they’re psychic, or who have recurring anomalous experience, the more it seems there’s a mix of nature and nurture that predisposes them.”
First off all, what is sick building syndrome?
The NIH defines it simply as nonspecific symptoms happening to various occupants of a building. This is often accompanied by an increase in absenteeism and a decrease in worker productivity. A cause is often impossible to locate. Many environmental factors are cited as potential causes.
Apparently the claim here is that there is a paranormal equivalent to sick building syndrome. This is also nothing new. Many claim that traumatic events leave an “imprint” on a room, object or even an area of land. And not very many people can pick up this “energy”.
So far, we have nothing more then a borrowed scientific term to attempt to explain something that seems similar.
The researchers posit that brain and body are effectively unified — a perspective taken by the pioneering field of psychoneuroimmunology — and that highly sensitive people react more strongly than others to what they’re feeling as well as to incoming environmental stimuli. This raises the possibility, Jawer and Micozzi assert, that subliminal feelings and other environmental nuances could be picked up by individuals who are sufficiently sensitive. A reputedly “haunted” place, therefore, could exhibit stimuli that register more with certain people and less with others.
First of all, psychoneuroimmunology. That is a term that I have never heard before, and I don’t even know if I could say it properly. So lets look into it. The first thing Google tells us is this:
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.
The NIH has this to say about the field:
Psychoneuroimmunology is a relatively new field of study that investigates interactions between behaviour and the immune system, mediated by the endocrine and nervous systems.
I have no idea how this terminology is in any way related to the paranormal. Besides as being just another scientific term borrowed because it seems to “fit”.
I decided to see what I could find by throwing the term “paranormal” in with the search query. The first page of note is this one on a topic called “epigenetics”. This one activated my BS detector right off the bat with this opening paragraph:
The area of scientific study so often referred to as “pseudo-science” continues to get mainstream attention as time after time very interesting results capture the minds and hearts of those who think there is more to our world than meets the eye. While not completely understood yet, it appears the common label of “pseudo-science” is more of a defense mechanism of dogmatic scientists than it is a legitimate claim. After all, in the spirit of science, a theory holds true until we can prove it wrong via the scientific method.
Experiments Evaluating Thoughts On Water
There have been experiments in the past that closely monitored the potential of our thoughts as they affect reality. One of the most well known experiments was conducted by Dean Radin, Ph.D., who is the Chief Scientist at IONS and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Sonoma State University. The experiment was done to measure how intention alone affects water crystal formation. Co-Investigators were Masaru Emoto, a Japanese energy scholar and author along with a few other researchers and scientists.
The experiment tested the hypothesis that water exposed to distant intentions affects the aesthetic rating of ice crystals formed from that water. Results showed that the test was consistent with a number of previous studies suggesting that intention may be able to influence the structure of water.
Alright, that is enough of that. . .
There is a forum post that attempts to associate it with the concept of “Chi”.
And then there is this PDF on the subject, sourced from one of the people quoted in the article. I see nothing really useful within it (I suspect that one would need to hear the corresponding speech to make more sense of it). None the less, I have come to my conclusion.
Nothing has been proven. All I see is the hijacking of 2 otherwise legitimate scientific terms, for use in a “scientific hypothesis” which makes no sense at all. I would go as far as to saying that the terms only seem to be there to bolster the credibility of the “theory”.
For a certain segment of people, they see a couple of big (or legitimate sounding) words and think “Well, that sounds valid”.
Unfortunately however, I am not one of those people. And I am not afraid to call bullshit on this article, and the theory behind it.