People Will Believe Anything December 29, 2007

People Will Believe Anything

First watch this video:

It’s not a ghost.

You know how I know it’s not a ghost?

Because ghosts don’t exist. And there’s probably a more likely explanation.

Of course, this is CNN. They wouldn’t want to do any actual investigation now, would they? They’ll just find the most idiotic, gullible people they can find and have them make up some crazy explanation for what they just saw.

Now, let’s look at what a random person can do with a bit of time, no spelling or grammar ability (illuminted?), and a lot of skepticism:

That makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?

(Thanks to Kiev for the links!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, skeptic, Blue Gas Station Ghost[/tags]

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  • The case for a “bug on the lens” seems pretty strong, but my first reaction was that someone faked it.

    The reason? The color of the blob looks a lot like a Photoshop spray can job. Two tones, use the airbrush to make a couple different layers, and voila! I imagine an animator could fake this video easily.

    Even if a natural explanation wasn’t ready, there wouldn’t be any reason to believe that there was actually an angel or a ghost at the station, among the customers. The blotch is clearly reflected light, and as the debunking video said it always stays in the foreground. That means the object is opaque, and is not its own source of light as phantasms and angels often are in mythology.

    Of course, nobody has ever seen a ghost or an angel who wasn’t mad, so we can hardly know how they reflect light in the first place.

  • Seeing as how it’s a silverfish, now the video is scary.

    I hate silverfish… *shudder*

  • The juxtaposition of these two videos pretty much sums up everything about the religious experience. The only difference is that this particular “eye-witness” account wasn’t WRITTEN down around 2000 years ago.

    I’m also thinking of the pastor of my church encouraging the congregation to “Dare to believe”.
    Hemant, thanks for posting this!

  • Vincent

    That’s great. I’d seen the bg video on the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and had dismissed it, but the video of a silverfish moving really clinches it.

    One criticism though: If you are going to show your bed on film, make the bed first!

  • Stephen

    They did a great job on the skeptical video; that’s the kind of stuff that would make James Randi proud. It’s a simple, clear illustration of just how obvious the answer to these things is when you turn your damn brain on instead of leaping straight to a supernatural conclusion.

    It seriously bothers me that people see an electronic device behaving strangely and immediately assume ghosts. It’s an electronic device. A million things can go wrong. Not to mention that a camera works much like an eye, and we all know a number of different ways to do funky things with our vision. What kind of society are we living in where random Joes off the street are assuming ghosts? I’m not a cynical person, so I’d like to believe that CNN just cherry-picked the kookiest of the random Joes, but I don’t know.

  • Jeff P

    Thank you for posting this!

    I’m going to show my 14 year old son, just how crazy it is that someone can reach a conclusion such as “this was an indian burial ground” or whatever, and extrapolate that because he’s lived there 30 years or more, he has some authority to proclaim an explanation for the phenomenon.

    Question for anyone: about a year ago I watched a video about a guy from Europe, who is an entertainer, who came to America under the guise of being a number of supernatural-type “authorities,” and subsequently offered his “services” to several mediums, preachers, mind-readers, etc. In all cases, he was “certified genuine” by those in the field. Does anyone know what I’m asking about?

  • Mriana

    That was better than my theory and more plausible. I thought it was chemicals in the air. Sometimes in the right condictions you can see vapors from gas, which are usually clear though. Even so my thought was maybe it was a gas vapor floating around. However, it would have been behind the cars near the gas tanks if it was gas vapors that the camera distorted.

    The bug theory and the blue light glare makes more sense.

  • If you are going to show your bed on film, make the bed first!

    That’s exactly what I was going to say!

    You make an impressive professional looking video with cool background music and all and then can’t spent all of 5 minutes cleaning up your room before showing it to the world? Or is that part of the illusion? That really “bugs” me!

  • Mriana

    Yes, I noticed the bed too and thought the same thing. I don’t know why, unless they are a teenager or something, someone would not make their bed- esp if it’s going to be on a video.

  • Brandon

    I’m not suggesting anything about the credibility of this video, and I am not christian, but rather agnostic leaning towards atheism. But at one time in my life with and ex-girlfriend and her sister with me in an older home I had never been in before, saw something move across the door of a dark room. I asked my girlfriend at the time if the owners of the home had a dog, and she replied “no”. I asked if she had seen anything and she straightaway clung to me and affirmed it. Her sister, who was sitting in a chair facing somewhat perpendicular to us at the time, and was also perpendicular to this room, also thought she had seen something out of the corner of her eye. Now it was an old house in a rather poor neighborhood, and I questioned the validity of what I had seen, but I know I saw something. It was white in color and moved past the door and appeared to be above the ground, as the lightest part of the image was from about 3 to 6 feet in the air. We were all huddled together at that point, and decided to get out of the house. I remained the last one out though.

    I understand there is no evidence I can give you for what I saw, and perhaps what I saw was not exactly what I saw. Nowadays I would have stayed in the house, but been more afraid in doing that of the possibility of it being an intruder.

    I understand many people believe once we die we cease to be aware. I don’t know if that is true, but logically it seems very possible. But I can’t say I don’t believe in the possibility that we continue on in some way or another either. And I certainly believe that even if when we die we cease to be aware, there exists the possibliity that we could at some time regain awareness, the proof being that it has happened before. I know nothing of what would be required for that to happen again though.

    When I talk about the story above, I tell people that once I thought I saw a ghost. It makes for conversation anyway. When I hear of people making fake evidence it pisses me off, but at the same time if you were the one doing it as part of some college prank it would be a real gas. It still pisses me off though. I sincerly hope this was not enlightening in any way possible. Thank you.

  • Ack! Sorry. Was trying to put a picture of Boo Berry up, but guess it won’t work. Will just paste my comments below.

    This was investigated months ago by Keith Olbermann and his team on Countdown. It’s actually Boo Buddy from the Count Chocula cereal box. He’s upset over the rise in gas prices, so he’s hunting the gas station until they drop to “reasonable” levels.

  • Karen

    Thank you, Hemant! A relative brought this up at Christmas – now I have an explanation for him.

  • cut the guy some slack – he forgot an “a.” but the video was awesome. i love how he debunked the idea with different examples of what the “ghost” really was, and they’re simple, but credible predictions!

  • Eliza

    Thanks, Hemant & Kiev, that was cool.

  • Actually there’s a conspiracy among ghosts to disguise their presence when they goof. They hire willing mortals to make videos such as the second one you used….

    Darn those ghosts who screw up. They just make more work for the rest of us.


  • Richard Wade

    Hi Brandon, thanks for sharing your experience. You said:

    I sincerly hope this was not enlightening in any way possible. Thank you.

    Actually I think it was enlightening and the insight was contained in this sentence:

    When I talk about the story above, I tell people that once I thought I saw a ghost. It makes for conversation anyway.

    Being a human being it is completely understandable that you would say “I thought I saw a ghost once.” That will get you a much more enjoyable conversation than “I was once in an old house in a poor neighborhood and out of the corner of my eye I had a glimpse of a fuzzy white thing.” What would people think of other than a rat? Conversation killer.

    It is a sad fact that for most people life is generally dull, uneventful, boring, and paved with a wall-to-wall, day-to-day mundanity. As a result they will jump on anything that offers the “ghost” of a chance for romance, excitement, interest or mystery.

    In general the truth is mundane. Whenever the explanation is confirmed and it turns out to be a silverfish or a rat or a weather balloon or a smartass college prank, we’re at least a little disappointed.

    We all want life to be interesting and we want to be interesting to other people. Ghosts are interesting, rats are mundane. So many people don’t simply report their perception (fuzzy thing), they report their most interesting interpretation (ghost). They have not been trained to remember the difference between their perception and their interpretation. It takes a practiced discipline to keep them separate, and it is not taught in school.

    If you see a guy run out of a bank with a bag and jump into a car, are you seeing a bank robbery? Not necessarily. You are seeing a guy run out of a bank with a bag and jump into a car. The rest is your interpretation, and even if it turns out to be correct, it is very important to not mistake interpretations for perceptions.

    Look with your eyes, not your mind. Think with your mind, not your eyes.

    I’m not bored. I find the confirmed facts of the world around me to be interesting enough to not have to grasp at the most exciting and also most unlikely interpretations of the parts that are not confirmed. It isn’t boring at all, it’s fascinating.

  • Julie

    CNN is trashy and useless. It makes me sad.

  • Jen

    That is fantastic! I want to smack all those people on CNN for not being a little more skeptical. I think it was a way of getting people into the gas station, because I have to agree- gas station guy, why didn’t you go to the window and look to see the angel/ghost/whatever?

  • Sarah H.

    I think it somehow makes it even better that the guy didn’t make his bed.

    Oh CNN…. I really miss the Daily Show, since that’s the only lens through which I’ll watch it.

  • about the making of the bed…

    This is potentially a much more divisive issue than sex, religion, or politics. I see two unyielding and unforgiving camps developing here. Hopefully we can keep the discourse civil. I personally know of no real conversion stories about making beds. If there are any reported bed-making lapses, then I submit that they were never true bed makers in the first place. On the other hand, there are some who probably make beds without really believing in it. 😉 😉 😉

  • Richard Wade

    LOL!! Thanks Jeff, for putting the unmade bed issue to bed in a much funnier way than I had in mind. This is like the “what causes ulcers” issue that started on my last post.

    A subtitle to this post could be “…and people will argue about anything, especially if it’s not the point.”

  • Thank you! I can’t believe how many great homeschooling moments I’ve had with my kids because of your blog.

    [News reporting is never unbiased and very often of dubious quality. How do you get this across to your kids? Why, visit the Friendly Atheist of course…]

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