New Paranormal Investigation Group: Anomalies Research Society

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There’s a new paranormal investigation group started by Sharon Hill and Ken Biddle. Its called the Anomalies Research Society. Their mission:

To be a respected network of ethical, evidence-based, rational investigators by reaching scientifically sound conclusions regarding extraordinary claims. We do this by first establishing the validity of the claim through examination and fact-checking, consulting with professionals, and documenting the cases for the purposes of education and public understanding.

An important question to examine when looking at any investigation group is what is the criteria for claiming something is evidence of the paranormal and what is the criteria for justifying a piece of evidence has a natural explanation?

Assuming ghosts are 100% real would a photo of one actually be recognized as proof of the paranormal? If not what would be? If something looks like it could be CG would that get the title of natural phenomena or would more work be done to determine whether CG was actually used? These are the critical issues in objective evaluation of paranormal claims.

And how do they deal with uncertainty? If an image seems slightly more likely to have a natural explanation than an unexplained one, let’s put a number on it of 51%, would they say the image can be explained through natural means? 

Investigation groups often rely on an all or nothing approach. It’s either normal or paranormal when the reality is an infinite spectrum of possibilities. There is also no acknowledgement of margin of error. If we assess an image as 60% likely to be the result of natural or known phenomena, but there is a 15% margin of error in the analysis process, claiming the image was the result of natural phenomena would be flat wrong. 

Now don’t get me wrong, ARS seems like an improvement over many ghost hunting groups, but improvement doesn’t equate to objective evaluation of paranormal claims. That’s what paranormal research desperately needs! 

Crafting a system to objectively evaluate claims of the paranormal is difficult. I can attest to that first-hand; it is the goal of this site. Skeptics and believers should spend more time examining the processes used to evaluate claims and less time making definitive judgements on whether or not something is paranormal or not. It is a misrepresentation of the truth and does nothing to advance the work. 

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