It is interesting that in a time of increasing secularism and a renewed interest in rationality and skepticism, many people still believe in ghosts. Even many of the same people who don’t believe in other supernatural entities maintain a belief in ghosts. Ghost hunting is still popular today, with reality television shows featuring ghost hunters and ghost hunting specialists that people can literally hire in order to inspect their own homes for ghosts. However, there is no evidence that ghosts even exist or that the techniques of ghost hunters are more than pure fiction. The popularity of ghost hunting and the belief in ghosts is not evidence of anything other than the desire to believe in ghosts.
The Lack of Evidence for Ghosts and Ghost Hunting
One of the reasons why the belief in ghosts persists is that ghosts are often considered invisible. Invisible things are harder to disprove. Many of the superstitions that have lasted a long time are invisible. People can simply claim that the thing in question does exist and that people can’t prove that it doesn’t exist, thus hiding behind the problem of knowing. It’s easier to make this argument with entities that are invisible, intangible, and otherwise nearly beyond detection. People end up with functionally no evidence for them or against them, and the believer can simply appeal to the problem of knowing and ‘win’ the argument on a technicality.
Ghosts Manifest as Electromagnetic Radiation
Of course, ghost hunters supposedly say that they can locate ghosts, so they do believe that there is something that separates areas that have ghosts from areas that don’t have ghosts. They believe that there is evidence for ghosts. However, the evidence that they do choose could very easily be explained by something else. They use devices all the time that supposedly can be used to pinpoint the location of a ghost. However, these devices are usually just detecting electromagnetic radiation. The electromagnetic radiation levels in a building can vary depending on surrounding or distant power sources and not just the ones that the ghost hunters have immediately identified. One of the biggest tricks of their trade is very easily debunked.
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Extraordinary Claims Require High Standards of Evidence
The belief in ghosts is an extraordinary claim that requires equally extraordinary evidence. Ghost hunters have electromagnetic radiation and noises. The existence of ghosts would mean that it was possible for a human consciousness to exist outside of the brain. Scientists have a hard time even quantifying human consciousness, and all evidence suggests that it is a product of mental functioning. As such, it could not exist without brain matter. Electromagnetic radiation and noises are insufficient to explain something as unlikely as ghosts. Old houses are often structurally unsound and they will make funny noises. The human brain is primed to look for patterns. Patterns of noises can easily be imagined as being caused by ghosts in the minds of people who believe in ghosts. People who believe in ghosts will look for even the slightest evidence that ghosts exist in a bias known as confirmation bias.
The belief in ghosts is popular because ghosts are defined in such a way that it is difficult to completely discredit their existence. The problem of knowing is an unsolved philosophical problem. However, in order to believe in ghosts or ghost hunting, people need to get some evidence that ghosts exist. The idea that it is possible for human consciousness to exist outside of the body seems to contradict all that is known about human neurology. Ghost hunters will use the noises and electromagnetic radiation in old houses to justify the existence of ghosts. However, finding out that ghosts exist would require scientists to revise their entire understanding of the human brain. Electromagnetic radiation and random noises are easily explained away. They cannot be used as evidence for anything other than the complicated nature of the environment that people are trying to understand.