Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do Einstein's Laws Prove Ghosts Exist? Nope!

So last week Live Science published an article titled "Do Einstein's Laws Prove Ghosts Exist" which discussed some very basic theories of Albert Einstein, and also reminded readers that many paranormal investigators use those theories to explain the existence of ghosts.

But after the story has been kicking around on the Internet for about a week now, it seems like few para peeps are actually reading the piece and just stopping at the headline. Of course this article is going to be a big win - and great news day - for ghost believers, right? Wrong.

Instead, Live Science presents the ghost hunter argument, paraphrased as:
If energy can neither be created nor destroyed, where does the human energy go once we die? Perhaps it continues on in ghostly form. Moreover, since organisms are powered by low-level electricity, perhaps that energy can be detected using certain gadgets.
Then they present viewpoint of science, which is:
Once we die, our energy is being passed onto the stuff that eats us and returns back to the environment - and the energy that powers us takes years to re-enter the environment or dissipates, so an EMF meter wouldn't be able to pick up ghostly remnants.
So the article isn't offering any boost to the paranormal community; it's shutting it down. But let's throw out another idea. Let's call it the Paranormal Pop Culture argument:

If you're a believer in ghostly activity and want science to back up that belief, you're going to have to find new theories to explain it. Essentially, you have to turn the "currently unexplained by science" part of the paranormal into the "normal," and then be able to test those theories. Paranormal believers will lose every time if they only rely on currently established science (although that established science cannot be tossed out, either).  If, for instance, a ghost hunter wants to utilize Einstein to offer support for the existence of ghosts, you must then also tell us how that energy is contained after death.

It seems like a tall order, but science is really good at tackling big phenomena - elegant phenomena that is made all the more intriguing by our deeper understanding of them. Solid, testable theories will prevail. In the end, good science wins.

If, however, you just believe and feel in your gut that ghosts are real, even if you cannot explain them, that's cool, too. Have faith - a majority of the population does when they practice some kind of religion that also cannot be explained by science. But be very wary of jumping into a scientific debate without quite understanding it.

On a side note, the same day Live Science, it was Carl Sagan's birthday. A great cosmologist, educator, astrophysicist (and believer in alien life), Sagan once said about science's pursuit that, "We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact."