Sep 19, 2023Liked by R.W. Richey

Seems pretty simple to consistently dismiss extraordinary claims of all stripes on the basis of insufficient evidence, whether they be regarding UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, incorporeal dragons in garages, or Nephites on snowmobiles.

Most of the people who are willing to entertain the existence of UFOs are also believers in the supernatural, purely because nonbelievers are still a minority slice of the U.S. population. (How many elected officials aren't religious, on paper, at least?)

Strange things and remarkable coincidences happen all the time and the mind is quite frequently an unreliable narrator of external reality. Motivated reasoning is everywhere, all the time, by default. An outside view of doubt is the only sane baseline response to extraordinary claims of any kind.

"All this in spite of the fact that there is a far greater quantity of evidence for all of those [supernatural] things."

Noting that "quantity" is not "quality," could we get some grainy videos of angels puling high-G maneuvers or something?

(Also, the existence of the supernatural/deity doesn't/wouldn't compel most people to accept any moral rules they wouldn't be open to anyway, and a huge number of ostensibly religious people either blatantly disregard the traditional moral dictates of their religion or reinterpret things until there is no conflict for them.)

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Jan 6Liked by R.W. Richey

Please check out this reference re the very eclectic body of work by Jeffrey Kripal who is easily the

worlds most interesting scholar of religious themes etc - especially in the USA.


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So I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of this story for a bit and thinking why it just doesn’t feel right as a criticism of the more rationalist approach, which would blow off the story as simply a coincidence. After all, there are probably a million such junk radios that randomly ‘turned on’…perhaps after someone fiddled with them trying to get them to work again. Many just played some static and were heard by no one. Or someone heard Howard Stern doing fart jokes and shrugged, realizing the old radio worked and seeing nothing more interesting. Out of a million, though, someone will at that moment be feeling a lot of emotions and have someone close to them who passed (a guarantee if you live long enough) giving us this friendly ghost story.

But is it an explanation? Let me be the guy who ruins the fuzzy feeling.

Is the model being proposed that after you die, you can hang around and watch your family? Can you watch anyone? Can you read their minds or are you guessing their emotions the way you do being alive? Do the well-meaning but socially inept trigger things that are just cringe, like having the radio play ‘baby got back’? Speaking of which, are you able to monitor broadcast transmissions? The grandfather did luck out if he was just able to turn the radio on and it happened to be on a classical playing station rather than, errr, ‘baby got back’. Did grandpa cause the station to play classical music or change the station on the radio? Did he have to turn it on, find the right station, then increase the volume? Or do ghosts as well sometimes discover there are lucky coincidences that just happen to work for their motivations? Was no one else feeling emotional? Might some other entity unrelated to the bride have done the trick with the radio to say hi to an old girlfriend or friend among the guests, or is causing a distraction on a bride’s wedding day considered rude in the afterlife as it is here?

Of course, other explanations can be just as easily spun. A more fundamentalist Christian type might say this was a demon trying to deceive his wife. Perhaps the demon was hoping to spark an interest in necromancy or the occult. That’s a radically different hypothesis but it fits the facts presented just as well.

This is where I think we see a bit of a connection with conspiracy theory, which I think needs a good definition to capture the ‘flavor’. The definition I think works best is “purposefully neglecting Occam’s Razor and viewing the addition of entities as a feature, not a bug”. Notice in the story may ‘entities’ have been added that can be subtracted without harm. For example, we could eliminate the woman’s grandfather. You could simply say a ghost wanted to turn on the radio because he could.

My ‘ruining the story’ with these questions does seem to hit the same spot you claim distinguishes the supernatural from UFO’s. Responsibility. The woman’s grandfather ghost briefly turning a radio on is a story absent any ‘world building’. It generates an emotional response but also produces no greater responsibility. Should she make a small shrine to her grandfather to thank him as the Japanese do? Should she try to set up a code by which her grandfather can have more complex conversations? Should she look for ‘signs’ in random events whenever she has moments of drama? You could take this story and run down any of those paths or none of them.

Jung, I think, hit upon it closer with his concept of synchronicity. Basically, the universe is perverse with meaningful coincidences that are acausal. He was probably right that the East is more open to this while the West is more biased towards causality, though I think ‘Eastern mysticism’ is exaggerated by past westerners. This is in fact an explanation in attune with Occam’s Razor. But it does ruin the story.

But now let’s turn to UFOs. I am going to say point blank no one ‘takes UFO’s seriously’. No one ‘gives them the benefit of the doubt’. They seem to get trotted out during slow news periods, often by characters who have a long history of garnering attention for themselves by teasing revelations that never actually get revealed. Others (congresspeople, podcasters, pundits and journalists looking for quick click bait stories) play along during these slow periods and then move on with a yawn. I think the key evidence to this is the total absence of any actual hypothesis about how they work.

Consider the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, which have massive amounts of collected lore of fans trying hard to create maps, rules and mechanics a handful of movie and TV show depictions (as well as some video games, comic books, novels etc.). Even the Battlestar Galactica series from the early 00’s had fans trying to reverse engineer exactly where the Galactica was in the Milky Way by watching for constellations and nebula seen in a few episodes. Yet strangely no such collective effort is being made by either the ghost or UFO set. Occam’s Razor applies to fiction as well.

From this I would conclude that not only is this not real, but it’s also not even fiction. Fiction, serving a purpose, is treated as real. It is at best proto-fiction. A series of emotional triggers that good fiction uses but always with a lot more. It is a bit like eating a spoonful or raw sugar or salt versus eating something baked.

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