First thing I stopped believing in was ghosts. Gods followed soon after.
I think a version of Hume's test,is applicable here:
What is more likely - given that we know more or less how light works - that photons were bouncing off the souls of the dead and by great fortune being captured on film/chip OR that the witness testimonies, default pattern reignition in our brains, a healthy dollop of fraud and fakery for flavour, and rounded off with some good old fashioned genuine mystery is the culprit?
On that latter point, to (mis)quote Tim Minchin:
Every time there’s a church with a ghoul
Or a ghost in a school
Look beneath the mask and what's inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the water-slide.
Because, throughout history
EVER solved has turned out to be
Well, if you got them from various places on the internet, I'm convinced!
Many of them look to be what is called "ghost pictures"--a way of combining two different photos together (might only be possible with old-school film camera, but I could be wrong). Some look like blurry pictures. Some look like plain old pictures. Some were art. Some looked like reflections off a window or mirror. People found ways to fake ghost pictures long before photoshop was invented and now it's much easier to doctor up photos. Even some kids in 1917 managed to fool people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies
I went on a "haunted tour" of my town a few years ago. They claimed that the library was the most haunted building there (and with "malicious" ghosts). Bullshit. I've lived in this area almost 30 years and been to the library thousands of times. I felt perfectly safe and comfortable.
I dont know. Regarding ghosts I've had some Christian friends who didnt want to believe in them report seeing them. A friend of my mothers (orthodox catholic has like 7 kids) was regailing how her house is haunted. Apparently theyve seen a manifestation of a guy throwing an axe in a womans back. They would also have weird smells come around, tell 'the ghost' to shut the door and it would among other things. I dont think its spirits but some other scientific phenomena. Of course I'm sure in some cases you have your con artists but others I'm not so sure.I would like to see an atheist ghost hunting team.
For me, ghosts presuppose that life continues in some fashion after death, I know of no evidence or reason or sound argument why that should be the case.
All such reports of, to which we can add, photographic fakery, of such miraculous appearances are, I think subject to a Humean scepticism:
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind than if it's falsehood would be more miraculous that the fact it endeavours to establish.
i.e What is more likely that people can be easily duped/deceived by their own senses or deliberately by others? That meaningless shapes can seem as people becuase detecting biological motion is something we are rather good at, but is it beyond imagining that once in a while we get a false positive, and see faces and biology where there is none. Add to that the legion of photochemical and now digital processing of images, over/under time-lapse photography and these are all of them more likely explanations than the fact endeavouring to be established - that life after death and ghosts are real and visible phenomena - when this is highly dubious.
The biological motion phenomenon is combined with plain old hallucinations. Also, people don't think group hallucinations are possible, but in a way they are--not that a group all sees the same thing at the time, but that people's memories are mutable (as they are in certain events) and people psych themselves up because if everyone else is describing something a certain way, it influences them, especially if they want to fit in or feel like they had a special experience.
Notable (on page 127) is an entry concerning a nunnery in France where the occupants began mewing like cats. Cats were greatly feared as familiars of the devil in 15th and 16th centuries, and the regular caterwauling coming from over the walls of the Convent was put the willies up the local Christian population until the local police station organised a unit of soldiers armed with rods, who threatened to beat the nuns unless they promised to stop this immediately. They promised.
This was not the most bizarre case of affliction amongst the holy sisterhood. In Germany, Hecker recounts a tale German Nun Biting Epidemic, where one nun began biting her fellow cloistered inmates, soon they were all biting each other. This then spread from convent to convent all across Germany from Saxony to Brandenburg and later spread as far as Holland and Rome.
Possibly the weirdest group hallucination I know of is the epidemic of Nigerian Penis Theft.
I found this article by Frank Bures which goes into some detail of the phenomenon and is well worth reading...
"No one is entirely sure when magical penis loss first came to Africa. One early incident was recounted by Dr. Sunday Ilechukwu, a psychiatrist, in a letter some years ago to the Transcultural Psychiatric Review. In 1975, while posted in Kaduna, in the north of Nigeria, Dr. Ilechukwu was sitting in his office when a policeman escorted in two men and asked for a medical assessment. One of the men had accused the other of making his penis disappear. "
"According to Ilechukwu, an epidemic of penis theft swept Nigeria between 1975 and 1977. Then there seemed to be a lull until 1990, when the stealing resurged. “Men could be seen in the streets of Lagos holding on to their genitalia either openly or discreetly with their hand in their pockets,” Ilechukwu wrote. “Women were also seen holding on to their breasts directly or discreetly, by crossing the hands across the chest. . . . Vigilance and anticipatory aggression were thought to be good prophylaxes. This led to further breakdown of law and order.” In a typical incident, someone would suddenly yell: Thief! My genitals are gone! Then a culprit would be identified, apprehended, and, often, killed."
"The first known reports of “genital retraction” date to around 300 B.C., when the mortal dangers of suo-yang, or “shrinking penis,” were briefly sketched in the Nei Ching, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic Text of Internal Medicine. Also in China, the first full description of the condition was recorded in 1835, in Pao Siaw-Ow’s collection of medical remedies, which describes suo-yang as a “ying type of fever”
"Fears of magical penis loss were not limited to the Orient. The Malleus Maleficarum, medieval Europeans’ primary guidebook to witches and their ways, warned that witches could cause one’s membrum virile to vanish, and indeed several chapters were dedicated to this topic. Likewise the Compendium Maleficarum warned that witches had many ways to affect one’s potency, the seventh of which included “a retraction, hiding or actual removal of the male genitals.” (This could be either a temporary or a permanent condition.)"
"How is Western medicine supposed to categorize such ailments as hikikomori, in which Japanese children refuse to leave their rooms for years on end, or dhat, in which Indians and Sri Lankans become ill with anxiety over semen loss, or zar, in which some Middle Easterners and North Africans are possessed by a spirit, or hwa-byung, the “fire illness” of Korean women in which anger is said to be manifesting itself in physical symptoms including “palpitations” and “a feeling of mass in the epigastrium”? How can we fit these, and a dozen other ailments, neatly into the pages of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Western bible of maladies of the mind? The fact is that there was no good place until Pow Meng Yap created one—ill-fitting as it may be—for these unruly members of the family of mental conditions whose causes cannot be found just in one mind but instead must be sought in the social. These conditions are not purely psychogenic, as psychiatry’s universalists once held all things must be. They are also sociogenic, or emerging from the social fabric."
"In other words, everything else in the DSM-IV, and in life, is culture-bound, too. While koro and its culture-bound kin languish at the back, other conditions such as multiple personality disorder, bulimia nervosa, type A personality, muscle dysmorphia, belief in government-implanted computer chips, and pet hoarding are given universal status because Western psychiatrists cannot see beyond their own cultural horizons."
The conditions were called culture-bound syndromes as they relied in part of wide-spread culturally reinforced beliefs to permeate and promulgate the delusion.
In Africa the widespread use and superstitious adherence to Juju Magic is manifest in the tale (described in the Harper article) where Frank Bures goes to visit a man reported in the local news who suffered having his penis stolen and is confronted by his associates who state that the woman (in this case) took his penis because she needed it for JuJu magic or as a ransom.
Juju market traders make a brisk trade selling protection against penis theft or advising exactly how one my clasp their genitals in public so to ward off anyone attempting to steal them. All too often thought the person suspected of stealing another genitals were beatne to death or lynched by a mob keen to kill the one who may have stolen their genitals.
As Bures notes sardonically : "In April 2001, mobs in Nigeria lynched at least twelve suspected penis thieves. In November of that same year, there were at least five similar deaths in neighboring Benin. One survey counted fifty-six “separate cases of genital shrinking, disappearance, and snatching” in West Africa between 1997 and 2003, with at least thirty-six suspected penis thieves killed at the hands of angry mobs during that period. These incidents have been reported in local newspapers but are little known outside the region."
and I'm sure you've all heard the one about the mass panic in New York that was started after Orson Welles broadcast his dramatised version of War of the Worlds?
Except that one never happened.
This idea got going after societal researcher from Princeton, Harvey Cantrill, sought to use the reported anxiety experienced by many people in the Jersey area to study panic.
However, recent reviews of Cantrill's work has cast doubt on many of his findings.
Miller 1985; Bainbridge 1987; Goode 1992 are all sociologists and reviewed in detail many of Cantrill's sources for his analysis.
"These examples have been usually overlooked in subsequent popular and scholarly discussions of the panic. One person became convinced that they could smell the poison gas and feel the heat rays as described on the radio, while another became emotionally distraught and felt a choking sensation from the imaginary "gas" (Cantril 1947, 94-95). During the broadcast several residents reported observations to police "of Martians on their giant machines poised on the Jersey Palisades" (Markush 1973, 379). After checking various descriptions of the panic, Bulgatz (1992, 129) reported that a Boston woman said she could actually see the fire as described on the radio; other persons told of hearing machine gun fire or the "swish" sound of the Martians. A man even climbed atop a Manhattan building with binoculars and described seeing "the flames of battle. Cantril (1947) cited the case of Miss Jane Dean, a devoutly religious woman, who, when recalling the broadcast, said the most realistic portion was "the sheet of flame that swept over the entire country. That is just the way I pictured the end" (181). In reality, there was no mention of a sheet of flame anywhere in the broadcast."
What is not in doubt is that people did react to the broadcast with feelings of heightened anxiety, however there is little to no evidence of a mass panic.
They suggest that the media picked up Cantrill's work and the idea of a mass exodus and panic was mobilised.
"Based on various opinion polls and estimates, Cantril calculated that of about 1.7 million people who heard the drama, nearly 1.2 million "were excited" to varying degrees (58). Yet there is only scant anecdotal evidence to suggest that many listeners actually took some action after hearing the broadcast, such as packing belongings, grabbing guns, or fleeing in motor vehicles. In fact, much of Cantril's study was based on interviews with just 135 people. Bainbridge (1987) is critical of Cantril for citing just a few colorful stories from a small number of people who panicked. According to Bainbridge, on any given night, out of a pool of over a million people, at least a thousand would have been driving excessively fast or engaging in rambunctious behavior. From this perspective, the event was primarily a news media creation. Miller (1985, 100) supports this view, noting that while the day after the panic many newspapers carried accounts of suicides and heart attacks by frightened citizens, they proved to have been unfounded but have passed into American folklore. Miller also takes Cantril to task for failing to show substantial evidence of mass flight from the perceived attack (1985, 106), citing just a few examples and not warranting an estimate of over one million panic-stricken Americans. While Cantril cites American Telephone Company figures indicating that local media and law enforcement agencies were inundated with up to 40 percent more telephone calls than normal in parts of New Jersey during the broadcast, he did not determine the specific nature of these calls:
Some callers requested information, such as which units of national guard were being called up or whether casualty lists were available. Some people called to find out where they could go to donate blood. Some callers were simply angry that such a realistic show was allowed on the air, while others called CBS to congratulate Mercury Theater for the exciting Halloween program. . . . we cannot know how many of these telephone calls were between households. It seems . . . (likely) many callers just wanted to chat with their families and friends about the exciting show they had just listened to on the radio (Miller 1985, 107)."
This of course was before the advent of mass ownership of the visual medium of televisions and people were motivated by strong imaginations - and against a familiar backdrop of societal worry (for African JuJu Weavers, read a still fragile populous recovering from financial meltdown amongst other things) that makes people feel isolated and threatened.
So in the end, the image of terrified Jerseyites running amock as unseen aliens rase the next street over to to the ground - all in the grip of some mass hysteria - is not a case of mass delusion becuase it never happened, however, - and ironically - the belief that this event did occur, is.
i believe them, but im partially skeptic regardless of what ive seen and hear. i think the best explanation to it would be to take a deist's perspective. a recording in nature of the unused energy that hasn't been sent into the ground to produce something. its a long shot, but its somewhat logical. residual ghosts are simply that recording. intellectual and poltergeists are just a recording still happening. obviously its all not literal recording, its a metaphorical idea to what is happening to the energy, how it cant be created or destroyed. so to say, it is a person who doesnt seem to realize they are dead, or energy left over due to a traumatic event that caused the death. if someone pointed a shotgun to your face, wouldnt you be full of energy and adrenaline for fear? couldnt that energy just stay? im in no way stating any of this to be true what-so-ever. just a simple idea on how it could happen.