The Sciences

Ghost hunting results in death

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitSep 10, 2009 4:00 PM

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The skeptic 'net is buzzing because it's been reported that a young Toronto woman has died apparently investigating a reportedly haunted building. I know some folks will want to use this to say that belief in the paranormal can kill you, and so on, but we have to resist that thought. For one thing, it's pretty silly. Of all the paranormal beliefs that do harm in our society, a belief in ghosts is just about the least likely to do physical harm (though it can do great harm otherwise). Plus, the reports are sketchy; perhaps she was a skeptic and investigating the claims critically. Even if that's not the case, it's not hard to see something just like that happening, and the results would be the same. If it did, would you now claim that skepticism kills? Irrational beliefs despite a lack of evidence bug me too, but they're no reason to make false correlations. We have to be skeptical even of our own skepticism, and how we apply it.

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