I've heard people talk about the value of "walking in doubt" lately. I certainly think there's a grain of truth in that statement — but then again — there's a grain of truth to, "Reagan was a good President." Saturday, commenter left a response to The Non-Existent Upstairs Neighbors that corroborated some of the same phenomena we've been discussing lately:
I myself am experiencing similar events. I live in Los Angeles, in an old house built way back in the early 30's or 40's. I live alone and I hear foot steps in my attic, in the hall way, and tapping/ thumping noises coming from the other rooms (mostly from the master bedroom). There were two counts in the summer when there was no air, no breeze and the back door closed on its own. Even with a strong breeze, the door wouldn't shut close, it would have been pushed open by the wind. There was no explanation that I can think of on why and how the back door closed shut. I feel that my house could be haunted, definitely. I haven't seen a ghost materialize, at least not yet, and I don't want to see one. I feel a presence constantly, like someone is watching you from behind. Its a very disturbing feeling to look and no one is there, its very chilling every time. I ignored it for sometime, but now its getting annoying and quite freeky. Every time I hear the foot steps, taps, and thumps, I think it might be an intruder, so I check out the sound with my weapon drawn, every time… Where is this "noise" coming from then?
I can definitely relate. The sane individuals who experience these things find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they're rational, normal people most like anyone else: they know that normally, doors don't close themselves, stacks of games don't fly across the room landing stacked, and there are no non-existent neighbors walking around upstairs or on the roof. Normally, an anomalous noise might not even catch our attention. Key word: normally.
I can't help but wonder how those who only believe in what science permits would react to something like this. In all reality, I believe these are exactly the type of experiences skeptics need to have. It's like when I told somebody it's possible to ride a skateboard over the N Judah tracks: she didn't believe me, because it just doesn't look possible. Yet, there's this one angle that allows you to get over them pretty easily.
"I'll believe it when I see it," she said.
Like her having a hard time understanding how anyone could skate over the mess of meandering iron that is the N Judah tracks, many can't even fathom "the supernatural" because it just hasn't happened to them. Because it hasn't happened to them, and because science doesn't allow them to believe in it, they don't even need to think about it. That's one thing I don't understand about skepticism as a philosophical outlook: why limit your mind, when you can expand it? The more I learn, the farther I go, and the more I see, the more I realize as possible.
I don't know what you think, but I'd say that just like my friends A and L across the street whom I've been reporting on, Steve's quite justified to believe that something spiritual, paranormal or possibly "supernatural" may be going on at his house. More, what Steve describes is eerily similar to what's been described — and some of which I've witnessed — at A and L's house: noise loud enough to grab a weapon because one couldn't reasonably exclude an intruder, creepy vibes, things moving themselves inside the house, etc.
Denial won't do people like Steve much good. Neither will doubt. Should Steve doubt what his senses are plainly telling him? What possible good could that accomplish? An overly-skeptical mental attitude impairs just as much as an overly-passive one. When stuff like this happens, regardless of how well we can explain it, the phenomena represent empirical facts that require not only an explanation, but a strategy for dealing with — whether science approves or not.
As much as my friends and I know when we see green grass in front of us, we know when a stack of games undeniably violates the known laws of physics. Likewise, Steve knows that loud noise and shutting doors don't just happen without sufficient cause. Yet just today I had yet another one of these smarty-pants atheists tell me that my beliefs are "unfounded," as if this person's ever spent a single day in my shoes.
I've come to realize that a certain subset of people simply refuse to grant others permission to believe in God or ghosts or anything spiritual, regardless of the empirical facts they themselves have witnessed. Yet for thousands of years, our ancestors have documented these and many stranger phenomena, across every culture. If we can simply deny whatever can't be reproduced in the laboratory, then it seems to me that we can equally deny any sentient experience anybody's ever had. That, my friend, would be the gateway to solipsism.
What would you do if you were Steve? Would your beliefs change at all? If so, in what way?