What’s Your Definition of an Expert?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:40 | Filed in Faith & Forteana, Media

I’m only asking, because my attention was drawn to an article in the Sun online where a…

…ghostly figure was snapped by a holidaymaker on the moors of North Yorkshire — and experts reckon the eerie photo is GENUINE.The Sun: Eerie, by gum

Whoo! If you look at the article, there’s an accompanying photograph which appears to show a man-shaped semi-transparent grey patch in front of some generic ‘scenery’. I wouldn’t normally presume this automatically meant that it was a ghost — there’s tricks of the light, there’s deliberate hoaxing and so on — but if the experts say it is a ghost…

Only, wait just a minute. Who are these experts?

Why there’s “TV Medium Craig Hamilton-Parker” who believes it shows no sign of photo manipulation. That would be the same TV medium who rather has a vested interest in people believing in an afterlife. The Craig Hamilton-Parker who has had his “abilities” called into question by BadPsychics.com. Although he has got an article about ghost pictures online.

The next expert up is “Nick Thurston, of the UK British Paranormal Association”. Again, I would presume that a ‘Paranormal Association’ would tend to have the starting point that there are ghosts, rather than being natural sceptics, particularly when they see their role as:

The role of the BPA is to help paranormal groups maintain professionalism when conducting investigations at a commercial property or venueThe UK British Paranormal Association

…and what precisely did Nick think?

“This image is extremely clear and is certainly that of a spirit manifestation of a full human figure.” Nick Thurston, quoted in The Sun: Eerie, by gum

It’s certainly a spirit manifestation of a full human figure? I’m impressed you can tell that from just the photograph. Personally, I can’t tell whether it’s genuine or not from here…

Finally, the third “expert”, also from the UK British Paranormal Association (is there any need for both “UK” and “British”, by the way?) would seemingly inject a note of caution:

“This is one of those pictures that makes you sit up and say wow. But obviously it is also a picture that needs deep examination. It is so easy these days to fool the public with paranormal phenomena due to modern software.”Clint Symonds, quoted in The Sun: Eerie, by gum

Hmm. It seems to me as though Clint is saying that you can’t actually draw a firm conclusion from the evidence presented. Which would contrast rather with Nick’s view — and with The Sun’s assertation that “experts reckon the eerie photo is GENUINE”.

Now, I’m not an expert on the paranormal, although I do have an interest. However, as an open-minded skeptic (rather than either a closed-minded hardline materialist or a credulous buffoon) I would want to see some evidence that something is actually a ghost, rather than a trick of the light or a hoax before I just accept it.

This is why I am aware of, and am interested in sites like Bad Psychics and its subsite Bad Ghosts. After all, if psychic powers and/or ghosts do exist, they ought to survive a little skeptical scrutiny. Admittedly, sometimes I feel they go over the top with the “it isn’t true because it can’t be true” attitude, but while this may come across as rude, if you are looking for an explanation of a specific phenomena, and you claim it’s a ghost, they will try and find a rational explanation.

And if they can’t find a rational explanation, while that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t one, it — to my mind at least — would then put the onus on them to identify what the alternate explanation is if they want to stick with the “it can’t be true” line. However, if there is a viable rational explanation that fits (and cannot be discounted by the evidence available) then it would seem logical to assume that is more likely than your ghost photograph.

This is why I would suggest that when consulting ‘experts’ about ghost photographs, you include in your list someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts and has experience proving ‘ghost’ photos to be fake or artefacts of lighting etc.

Obviously, The Sun disagrees, preferring their experts to be the ones who would agree with the story they were running in the first place. I’m not entirely sure why I should be surprised by this, mind you, print media (actually, not just print media. actually, not just the media) have had a habit of rolling out only the experts which agree with their editorial view for some time…

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15 Comments to What’s Your Definition of an Expert?

  1. chris foreman says:

    March 11th, 2009 at 7:50 am

    An expert is someone who knows one thing more than you on any given subject. But it doesn’t mean that one thing is right or even real.

  2. Gill says:

    March 13th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I think a large part of the problem is that the media don’t do any research on their so called ‘expert’ before taking their standing as gospel.

    I had occasion not that long ago to gather together a group of ‘experienced users’, who would never have the cheek to class themselves as experts, to point out to the BBC that the ‘expert’ they had broadcast for one of their news snippets was talking out of her behind. Indeed the information she gave was actually dangerous.

    To their credit, the producers backed down, broadcast a retraction and stated that in future they would consult a number of people before assuming one person actually had a clue.

    Just assuming people are experts based on the fact they have an advert in the local paper or local directory is misguided. I have a list of plumbers and builders in this area who prove the fallacy perfectly.

  3. Steve Zepoloid says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Re: alleged ‘ghost’ photo criticism. Today it’s fashionable, hip and cool to be a skeptic and psychic basher. It appears that extreme skepticism is automatically assumed to confer scientific objectivity, honesty and integrity over and above other peoples’ opinions, specially believers in the paranormal who are considered idiots, gullible and totally incapable of any sound judgement. As for my own credentials, I am a theology graduate, minster of religion, teacher of religious education, member of the scottish society for paranormal research AND a genuine, bona fide paranormal expert as well as being a psychic, clairvoyant medium.
    I have no objection to nayone having an opinion, but it seems to me that today, skeptics are determined to turn psychis and their followers into society’s whipping boy!

  4. JackP says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Steve, that’s very true. That’s why I object to the likes of Richard Dawkins with his somewhat hectoring approach towards religion.

    However, anyone wishing to take a reasonable, objective approach would look to include different points of view – from those who believe in ghosts and those who don’t.

    Which is why I objected to the fact that the only ‘experts’ consulted were those with a vested interest in suggesting they exist.

    Given that you describe yourself as a psychic and clairvoyant medium, then, (if you charge for these services), you would also have a vested interest in people believing in it.

    That isn’t to say it’s automatically nonsense, merely that you will come with an inbuilt bias (just as the likes of Dawkins would come with a bias from the other side).

    I’m interested in this society for paranormal research thing though: can you give me any information on what research is going on and/or any published results?

  5. Steve Zepoloid says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hi Jack, good commments, however, I have to say that I have no bias on whether someone believes in ghosts, spooks, the afterlife or whatever. It is entirely up to them. Although I am a self employed professional, I don’t insist everyone believes the same as me, that would be arrogant in the extreme. However, I have had some really mind blowing experiences and been given totally specific information about things only I knew and that is what convinced me of existence beyond the grave. I’m happy to live and let live, if your a believer in something fine… if not, fine, but as you say, Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Derren Brown et al all have a vested interest in promoting their own views. The trouble with Randi and Dawkins is that they talk as if their opinion is the only one that holds water, as a matter of fact, for every atheiistic scientist, there are other scientists who are just as erudite as Dawkins, who hold belif in an afterlife. As for Randi….well least said soonest mended…one day he’ll be found out to be the fraud that he is! If the man would be honest about his disingenousness that would be a step in the right direction. As for shows you say we should always have skeptics to balance the input…actually in the uk we always have skeptics trying to disprove or rationalise everything. One thing i do believe…labels like ghosts, spirits, supernatural etc aren’t really helpful, because when we find out how these things work they will become commonplace in our society…you see I think agnostics have got it right…they’re not quite sure, the jury is still out, whereas, skeptics and atheists are of the NO…it can’t be true variety! they are the one’s who have closed their minds…they are like the people who thought man would never fly in the air like a bird….now look at us….look at the amazing technological advances we have made in the last century alone! One last thing i wish to say for the record, unfortunately there are paranormal conmen and women out there, cheats and swindlers, fakes and frauds who ARE conning people….they SHOULD be brought to book, however, there are also good honest, ethical practitioners like myself who have codes of conduct and act with integrity…and its’ when the likes of Randi and dawkins label us all as frauds that I take umbrage!

  6. Steve Zepoloid says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Jack, try these societies for info on the paranormal. Most of these folk are scientists, psychologists, doctors of philospohy or professors.
    the (american) (british) (scottish) society for psuchical research. substitute the proper term for each search. They all produce academic abstracts and journals on their investigations which are normally very rigourous. Hope this helps. Steve Z.

  7. JackP says:

    September 22nd, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Steve, for me the situation was best summed up by the evoloutionary biologist and author Stephen Jay Gould, who said something along the lines of “of my friends who are biologists, approximately 50% are religious and 50% are not. Therefore I have to believe either that science is not incompatible with religion or that half of my friends or irredeemably stupid”.

    Which pretty sums up me. I’m skeptic, but not a non-believer, if you see the difference: I’m aware I’d like to believe in an afterlife, so because of that I want some evidence before I believe.

    I would go as far as to say that I believe “there’s stranger stuff out there than people think” but exactly what form that is, I remain to be convinced about. I am interested in forteana though, so if you come across anything you think I might be interested in, please feel free to drop me a line via the contact form.

  8. Mike says:

    January 30th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Told to me:
    Expert: has been
    Spert: drip under pressure.
    very appt

  9. Mike says:

    January 30th, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Told to me:
    Ex: has been
    Spert: drip under pressure.
    very appt

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