"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." - Carl Sagan, Cosmos.

The belief in the supernatural is much more common than many would be compelled to expect. The National Science Foundation has reported statistics on a variety of different supernatural beliefs in this graph. What intrigues me about these numbers is that they are very high given the lack of substantial, verifiable, and testable evidence. Furthermore, they appear to be slowly but steadily increasing over time instead of decreasing; as one would expect since the period of Scientific Enlightenment. In ancient times, belief in the supernatural was very much the norm. Even in more recent years, we may examine the insanity which ensues from holding such beliefs, such as the violence which occured during the witch hunts during the Salem Witch Trials.

While I do not inherently think that belief or lack of belief in supernatural is right or wrong, I do think that the widespread hysteria and fear that is often associated with things of supernatural (or not so supernatural) origin is unnecessary and detrimental to human existence. Many people are reasonable when they hold beliefs in the supernatural, however so many others get very emotional when the topic is brought up in conversation. Many individuals are so reasonable in most aspects of life, which makes it somewhat amazing that a person could over-react to someones disbelief. Many claim to have personal experiences with the supernatural, however the inability to test these claims render them moot for the scientific community.

As the quote at the top of this article would imply, claims that the supernatural exists requires substantial and extraordinary evidence to prove they exist. In the mainstream media, many of us are easily sucked into television shows, like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, which claim to use scientific methods to go about proving the existence of the paranormal. Of importance is realizing that, while these shows may be entertaining; they can easily be staged or using inaccurate scientific methodologies. For example, the evidence provided in the form of EVP's are always questionable; as simple audio editing techniques can render the same responses and tonal qualities. Additionally, the fact that the locations are not completely locked down often can lead to influence of sounds which may not be in close proximity.

I, of course, am not saying these things to damn anyones particular beliefs. I do however belief that examining these processes are important, and being skeptical of our own beliefs will undoubtedly lead to stronger beliefs in the future as we are able to provide evidence and develop new techniques of acquiring knowledge. Subjective experience is in many ways an important aspect of coming to "know" things exist, however it is not the end all; nor should we rely on subjective experience exclusively when we are formulating opinions about anything.

The very nature of the scientific method is one that seeks to acquire the most undeniable proof for the existence of any given thing. Proof can be provided through both subjective and objective means. Also important to consider when discussing ghost hunting and other supernatural and ESP (extra-sensory perception) topics is that the "evidence" for these things may potentially be evidence for the existence of other things we do not yet know about. As many know, ghosts are typically viewed as the manifestation of energy; and as such we cannot necessarily imply that these energies are personal or independently moving about. Energy is constantly ebbing-and-flowing, and it may be possible that energy takes on forms in which we can not always see with our own eyes. To go as far as saying these are "ghosts" (as described by modern ghost hunting enthusiasts) could potentially be innaccurate.

As may be evident, I am skeptical of supernatural occurrances. However, I attempt to be as open minded as I possibly can. I very much believe that Carl Sagan's quote, from his book Cosmos, is the standard (AKA: The Sagan Standard, as some deem it) to which all supernatural occurances should be put up too.

Of course, many individuals will continue believing in the supernatural. This is to be expected. I just hope that many people will be open-minded to new evidence, on both sides of the fence.