Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time Out: Let's talk 'bout Bias

I find it intriguing when some one says that, regarding their philosophy or approach to parapsychology and paranormal research (the two are very different), that they are "unbiased" and "religion free."  I'm sorry, but I find that a bit irritating. So, please indulge me as I rant a bit... 

There is no such thing.

You read that correctly.  There is no such thing as not having a bias.  It's high time some of our brothers and sisters in the field learn that and stop looking down their noses at those of us who approach paranormal research with an openly Christian perspective.  Memo to the uninformed: You have your own bias.  Do you not understand that?  Truly?

We all have our worldview, made up of core presuppositions by which we use to make sense out of our world.  Most of us don't even realize we have them, but we all do, and they filter and "spin" everything that comes into our minds.  The best we can do is to be aware of them and make them what we want them to be, rather than unknowingly allow ourselves to have inconsistent and confused presuppositions.  It is obvious, from anyone making a statement such as, "I have an unbiased and religion free approach to paranormal research but rather approach this scientifically" that they are standing on the very branch they are sawing off.  All the while they are claiming to be unbiased they are exposing it.  The unflattering analogy is that while they are bent over with their head buried in the sand and they're claiming, "I'm not here!" their posterior is waving in the wind for everyone to see.

Just as an agnostic is being hypocritical when he says, "We cannot know truth," the investigator who is claiming to be "unbiased" is likewise being hypocritical.  The agnostic, when he says, "We cannot know truth" is declaring a truth statement - the very thing he says we cannot do!  He is saying, in effect, the only truth we can know is that there is no truth.  That is, of course, nonsensical and absurd.

The proud claim of the man who declares that he is "holding to science and not being religious" is being religious - the religion he worships and follows is science!  I'm constantly amazed at the folks who think they are unbiased when they sanctimoniously say "I'm not a religious freak I'm a scientist, therefore I'm not biased."  Indeed they are, but what's worse is that they don't even realize it.  Who is really the blind "believer?"  I'm a bit embarrassed for them, but ignorance is bliss as they say.

One last point, if you cling to being strictly a "scientist" when approaching paranormal research, then how can you assign any causal affect (reason) for the anomaly outside of a natural or psychological finding? (In other words a true haunting.)  You can't really even use the word "paranormal" can you?  Why?  Because use of the word "paranormal" indicates (by definition) that the cause for the activity is beyond the normal!  You've relegated yourself to being a parapsychologist, but you can never be a paranormal researcher.  You can deal in the what: "Hey, egads, over there is an anomaly!" but never the why: "Hey, over there is an anomaly and it's the spirit of my dead grandmother!"  To say that means you "believe" that your grandmother is alive after her physical death - and that's the realm of religion and belief.  You can't go there.  You're stuck.  You can feel the itch, but you can't scratch it.  All you can explore is phenomenology (the experiences and people who have them) but never the reasons behind the phenomena.  You are, as Ed Warren used to put it, "Fishing without a hook."

The best bet, in my opinion, is to be balanced and do both.   

Admit your bias (your belief). 
Don't be ashamed or ignorant (or stupid) of it.  In fact:
Claim it! 
Be proud of it. 
Defend it! 

Start with science with all its parts (historical research, interviews, geography, biology, physics, psychology, parapsychology, etc...then once that's done move on from that into an informed belief!  Both of those words indicate the balance I spoke of earlier.  Why does everyone assume a priori that having "religious" views and having "faith" automatically makes one check their brain at the door?  That's a false assumption, period, and frankly I'm tired of seeing it.  Memo number two: faith and reason are not mutually exclusive concepts.  Those who feel that way need to read William Lane Craig's book Reasonable FaithTo see his site, click here.  I've met Bill, and he's a  theological genius, seriously.  He's way over my head and that book will make you do some deep thinking, and every Christian should read it. 

For those of you who have been looking down on those of us who approach this field openly with our faith intact, please do me a favor and before you smugly dismiss us, try a bit of humility by looking deeply into your own lives, your core beliefs, and how they shape and influence your own approach to this work...really.


  1. This is truely insightful! I agree 100%, Well said Mike!

  2. Wow. That's it. All I got. Just, Wow.