In our time, ‘Skepticism’ has sadly become synonymous with snarky proselytizing, in favor of a certain worldview that tends to eschew and belittle those things lying in the fringe of mainstream Science.
Hayley ‘the Ghost Geek’ Stevens is a skeptic, but the kind of skeptic which restores the proper meaning of that term. She’s often incurred in the ‘heresy’ of applying critical thinking ALSO to the claims or attitudes of so-called skeptics –like that time when she bravely took a stand in the James Randi ‘Social Darwinism’ controversy– and for that she’s been severely chastised by people she once considered impassionate colleagues –further highlighting how this social movement has started to attain many defects of the ‘woo woo’ trends and religious organizations they supposedly combat…
The criticism hasn’t silenced Hayley though, who continues to speak and lecture in favor of the rational investigation of paranormal phenomena, including ghost apparitions. In the video above, she points out many of the mistakes she perceives amateur ghost hunters commit, when they go inside haunted houses or other locations in which alleged preternatural manifestations are reported.
Your particular worldview –or maybe even personal experiences– might cause you to disagree with Hayley’s conclusions, and that’s fine. Even I once engaged in a discussion with her last year, under the comments of her blog post ‘3 Weird Things That Happened To Me (& Why I Still Don’t Believe In Ghosts)’, because I wanted to know what her operative theory about that which we commonly refer to as ‘ghosts’ was.
Her response was:
I used to believe ghosts were the dead and that our spirit (the life energy) survived after death, but now I don’t find that convincing enough to believe it.
…Which is something I’m perfectly fine with, since to me unquestioningly equating ghosts with the ‘souls’ of the dearly departed, is as simplistic and as-yet unfounded as implying UFOs must be the metallic spacecraft of interlopers from another star system; an assumption nuts-and-bolts UFO buffs –not to mention debunkers like Seth Shostak and Neil deGrasse Tyson– love to either champion or criticize ad-nauseam, when they could probably better spend their energies exploring alternative hypotheses for why people continue to report UFOs –as well as ghosts.
I’m also OK with the fact Hayley is not inclined to let her few mysterious experiences, which seem to indeed defy a rational explanation, move her to cross that ontological Rubicon of accepting the existence of paranormal phenomena. At the end of the day, defining what constitutes ‘sufficient evidence’ with these mysteries remains a very personal and quite subjective question –what might convince me might not convince you and viceversa– and I think this ongoing search for the Truth benefits greatly when we have honest people who elect to err on the side of agnosticism.
Saying “I don’t know, so let’s not jump to conclusions AND keep the case open” will always be more preferable than concluding “I don’t know, but I’m going to choose the explanation that better suits my bias and stop looking for answers.”