Not really an appropriate title for this topic, but since the last post was called strange phenomenon and this is on a similar vein I thought it would be mildly amusing.
I'm not sure what exactly to think of this group of people, do I call them gullible? or stupid? or just simple naive? The people I'm talking about this time are the believers in the paranormal, in psychics, tarot card readers, ghosts etcetera. A Gallup poll on June 8 2001 showed an increase in paranormal belief since the last poll on the subject which was in 1990. A few interesting observations from the poll were that women were more likely to believe in communication with the dead and ghosts, while men were more likely to believe that aliens have visited the earth. Younger people (18-29) were more likely to believe in haunted houses and witchcraft, while older people (29+) were more likely to believe in demon possession. An almost obvious observation from the poll was that people with higher education (university) are far less likely to believe in any paranormal claims.
The poll respondents were asked questions of whether they believed in several specific paranormal claims. I am going to put the percentage of people who responded saying they believed in each claim in brackets. ESP (50%), Haunted Houses (42%), Possession by the Devil (41%), Ghosts and spirits (38%), Telepathy (36%), Extraterrestrial contact, (33%), Clairvoyance (32%), Talking to the dead (28%), Astrology (28%), Witches (26%), Reincarnation (25%) and Channeling (15%).
An important fact to note is that this poll was conducted in the USA, where over 70% of the population claim to be of the Christian faith. Regardless of their faith, these numbers are disturbingly high for any population, let alone a first world country.
The thing I find most curious about belief in the paranormal is that not only do they have absolutely no evidence to back up their claims, but many of them have been debunked and refuted so many times that I almost feel embarrassed for anyone who professes to believe in them. At TAM 2009 (The Amazing Meeting, a skeptics convention) they offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove they had any psychic power and pass a double blind test. A woman by the name of Connie Sonne, a self professed psychic accepted the challenge and attended TAM 2009 to take the psychic test. Needless to say she failed miserably, and she had a success rate of 0%............... That's right, she failed epically. You can watch the entire test on Youtube Here.
Not surprisingly, the James Randi Educational Foundation (the people who run TAM) get a fairly small number of people accepting the Million Dollar Challenge, I suspect most psychics are just con artists and are knowingly deceiving people, and the people like Connie Sonne who take the challenge and fail as miserably as she did are deceived themselves.
With mounting evidence against paranormal claims and ZERO evidence supporting them, why does paranormal belief still have such a major grasp on so many people? In a book I read lately by Michael Shermer called 'Why People Believe Weird Things' he described a confrontation he had with a psychic who ran a psychic 'school' teaching people to learn ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). The teacher at the school had absolutely no knowledge of basic probability and when a student would guess more answers to the ESP test than you would statistically expect the teacher took that as evidence that the student was gifted with psychic ability. Never mind the fact that if another test was taken that same student may get less answers than you would statistically expect by random guessing. This teacher was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that ESP was real. This is where thinking goes wrong with these people, they accept non-evidence as evidence and push evidence against their beliefs to the side. Reminds me of this picture of three chimpanzees, and a common saying "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", which is exactly what these people do in regards to evidence against their beliefs. They have their minds made up, and no evidence to the contrary will change them. This type of stubborn belief is intellectually bankrupt and dishonest.
Here is the picture I was talking about.