December 3, 2009
To conduct good critical thinking, it’s necessary to ask the right questions. Whether we are evaluating anecdotes of spontaneous events or scientifically studied phenomena, we should remove or at least recognize as many of our assumptions as possible, and a good way to do this is by questioning our interpretations of the evidence. The last thing I want to do in discussing these phenomena is convey the impression of a superstitious or reckless inductor grasping at straws to prove his point.
1) Were the events being described observed by others such that they are objective, or is there possibility of a purely subjective influence?
2) Have we considered our sources? Are the people reporting the spontaneous events known to be braggarts, liars, or prone to the fabrication of tales for attention or other purposes? Can the scientists conducting the studies be safely described as credible, methodologically sound, and free from ulterior motive(s)?
3) Are there any exaggerated conclusions or unnecessary presuppositions of causality being drawn?
4) Can we safely exclude disassociative psychological phenomena (psychism or polypsychism)?
5) In events that were observed by witnesses, can we safely exclude group delusion or illusion?
6) Can there be such a thing as a haunted house? Or, are poltergeist and so-called “spook” phenomena somehow caused by the subjects experiencing them? Can there be such a thing as malicious psychic intent from another subject (e.g. voodoo, witching, etc.) Do any of these positions mutually exclude?
7) Do these and other anomalous phenomena tap into currently not understood but wholly neurobiological components (sCCH, animistic view), or are there genuine “intrusions” from currently not understood but external and not wholly neurobiological components (wCCH, TMC, spiritual view)?
8) Can a person be physically, mentally or otherwise affected by powers or beings currently unknown to us? If so, what conditions might justify such as a tentative conclusion?
9) If we conclude that a subset of these events represent genuine phenomena, how must our currently accepted scientific models of consciousness and reality adapt?
10) Is there a supportable case for considering geomagnetism or solar activity as potential influence(s)?
11) In the cases that prove harmful to the subject, what is the safest and most effective means of relief? Do such things belong to the domain of psychology, parapsychology, or pastoral care? Or, does a subset of cases merit a combination of evaluations and methods?
12) Lastly – before introducing new events or evaluating previously reported events in light of these questions – does anyone think there are other important questions we should add to this list?