The Burden of Proof is on the Claimant


One of the common lines of the paranormal critic is that the burden of proof is on the claimant. In other words those that believe in the paranormal are burdened with the task of proving it. On the surface, this notion makes sense, but when examined deeper, cracks in this line of thought appear.

The question at the heart of this issue… Is it fair to require paranormal believers to provide proof of the paranormal? Does that provide the opportunity for fair and objective evaluation of suspected paranormal phenomena?

In a perfect world it would. In a perfect world scientists would investigate these claims with passion, pursuing all possible leads: They would pursue the normal and the paranormal, probing for all explanations and eliminate any that could not account for the phenomena. We do not live in a perfect world. The investigation of the paranormal is not an objective pursuit of knowledge; it is a war between paranormal critics and believers.

In this war the side of the critic is represented by a large field of scientists: In fact it is taboo for a scientist to express interest in the paranormal or suggest that such phenomena may be possible. For the believers there are a few scientists, but the majority are amateur ghost hunters and eyewitnesses. Many have experienced what they believe to be compelling evidence of the paranormal and use that as the driving force behind their work.

But here is where we can begin to see the fundamental problem. Scientists require non-scientists to provide scientifically indisputable proof of the paranormal. A lack of this scientifically indisputable evidence is viewed as a validation that the paranormal does not exist. To the paranormal critics the lack of proof of paranormal is proof that ghosts, psychic abilities and everything else paranormal is not true: Because it cannot be proven through scientific methods, by a group composed largely of non-scientists, it is not true.

Is the fatal flaw in this logic obvious yet? How can a paranormal phenomenon be proven through scientific methods when there are virtually no scientists trying to prove it? When every scientists works to find ways to disprove the paranormal, of course we will have no proof of the paranormal! Scientists require non-scientists to play their game, to use the scientific method, but when investigators comply, scientists slam these attempts because the non-scientist does not have the qualifications to carry out the experiments. It is a rigged game capable only of producing theories that critical scientists have an interest in.

Now this is a generalization. There are a few scientists that investigate the paranormal, but they have been marginalized and their work is generally ignored by the scientific community.

How about in cases where scientific testing is unfeasible? It is logical to say something truly beyond current scientific understanding may not be easily measured and tested with existing technology and methods? Sure some tests can be done, but there is no ghost detector you can wave around in a haunted house and get a definitive yes or no. There is no psychic detector you can wave in front of a person to see whether or not they are the real deal. Proving phenomena beyond current scientific understanding, phenomena that would rock the foundations of the scientific community, is exceptionally difficult, even if they are completely true.

Believers are fighting a war they cannot possibly win alone. Until scientists begin to investigate claims of the paranormal and stop accepting every theory to refute the paranormal on blind faith, the study of paranormal phenomena will be locked in this very stalemate – critics vs. believers. To get to that point of scientific interest in the paranormal, investigators need to make an effort to improve the work. Improving the standards by which we investigate the paranormal will give more credibility to the work and attract more of the existing scientific establishment to look into these cases for themselves.