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Christianity Johnson on 29 Oct 2008 12:01 am

The origins of ghosts

Many people believe in ghosts and “haunted houses”. Yet, like God, ghosts are completely imaginary. So where do the persistent stories come from?

Ghost Lusters: If You Want to See a Specter Badly Enough, Will You?

An explanation for visits by the “Holy Spirit”:

Most scientists dismiss the vast majority of ghost sightings as hoaxes. But researchers in Canada, England and elsewhere are exploring what happens in the brain to create the illusion that something is “haunted.” So far, they have found evidence that some apparitions may be brain benders caused by spiking EMFs (electromagnetic fields), and possibly even extremely low-–frequency sound waves (known as infrasound) so subtle that the ear does not register them as noise.

EMFs emitted by power lines and towers, clock radios and other electrical sources may help debunk myths that people or things are haunted, says Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, who has conducted research on the topic. One such study, published in 2001 in Perceptual And Motor Skills chronicles the experiences of a teenager who in 1996 claimed to be receiving nocturnal visits—one sexual—from the Holy Spirit. The 17-year-old girl, who had sustained mild brain damage at birth, said she also felt the presence of an invisible baby perched on her left shoulder.

When Persinger and his colleagues investigated (at the behest of the girl’s mother), they found an electric clock next to the bed that was about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) from where she placed her head when she slept. Tests showed that the clock generated electromagnetic pulses with waveforms similar to those found to trigger epileptic seizures in rats and humans. When the clock was removed, the visions stopped. Persinger determined that the clock, in combination with the girl’s brain injury, were highly likely to have been contributing factors to the perceived nocturnal visits.

Many people believe in God because they claim to have “experienced” God in the real world. In every single case, these “experiences” have a non-supernatural explanation, because God is imaginary.

10 Responses to “The origins of ghosts”

  1. on 29 Oct 2008 at 3:05 pm 1.SteveK said …

    More Johsonisms…

    In every single case, these “experiences” have a non-supernatural explanation, because God is imaginary.

    Begging the question – twice in one sentence!

    * HT to Red for linking to the above website earlier. It’s not just for the religious so maybe Johnson can study it and clear up his sloppy thinking.

  2. on 30 Oct 2008 at 2:24 am 2.Anonymous said …

    SK: Can you show a single example where there was a confirmed supernatural explanation for anything? Anything at all?

  3. on 30 Oct 2008 at 1:12 pm 3.SteveK said …

    No, but so what?

    I hope you aren’t going to beg the question like Johnson did and tell me a supernatural experience *requires* this sorta stuff.

  4. on 30 Oct 2008 at 1:12 pm 4.SteveK said …

    Ahh crap…the hyperlink is messed up. Sorry.

  5. on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:26 pm 5.Anonymous said …

    SK: you say “No, but so what?”

    Imagine a jungle tribe. It knows nothing of gravity. They believe in a god who pulls things toward earth. They believe they must sacrifice to this god. They believe by praying to this god they can reduce his effects and they can jump higher. When they occasionally see airplanes fly overhead, it is a miracle from their god.

    A scientist visits the tribe and learns of this god. He says, “Gravity is caused by an attractive force between atoms. In every single case, gravity has a non-supernatural explanation, because your gravity god is imaginary.

    Is the scientist begging the question? No. The scientist is stating a fact.

  6. on 01 Nov 2008 at 8:50 pm 6.SteveK said …

    “In every single case, gravity has a non-supernatural explanation, because your gravity god is imaginary.”

    Is the scientist begging the question? No. The scientist is stating a fact.”

    You’re partially correct. In the empirical sense he isn’t begging the question at all, but he is begging the question in the non-empirical sense.

    He assumes that only material causes are involved because that’s all empirical studies are concerned with. Ask an expert in non-empirical studies and he’ll tell you the scientist’s statement begs the question wrt the final cause.

  7. on 02 Nov 2008 at 2:10 am 7.Red O'Brien said …

    That’s pretty lame.

  8. on 03 Nov 2008 at 1:15 am 8.SteveK said …

    You think that the conclusions of experts in non-empirical studies are lame? Don’t look now, but you relied on these conclusions in the comments you’ve made so far. Pretty lame, huh?

  9. on 03 Nov 2008 at 1:33 am 9.Red O'Brien said …

    Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not even sure what you’re saying.

    Are you saying that you believe that gravity might be caused by some supernatural force?

  10. on 04 Nov 2008 at 8:39 pm 10.ojangles said …

    red,

    I think that’s exactly what he’s saying. remember, you’re dealing with somebody who thinks that a being created the universe and all of the laws within it.

    sure explains a lot, doesn’t it?

    there’s just that eensy weensy problem of infinite regression.

    but never mind that… there’s preaching to do!

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