We periodically receive "evidence" from other groups and individuals for review. We even look over hundreds more from websites and other locations and the one thing that I have noticed is the amount of groups and people that are quick to label something that does not meet its definition. Others are quick to assume the paranormal when there a multitude of other possibilities. Maybe we need to humble ourselves a bit more and sit back and re-evaluate the data that we collect and reword what it is that we are labeling.
Case in point would be EVP's. The term started being used more largely after the movie "White Noise", but the research behind it was being done for quite some time. Now the term EVP is used so synonymously with any unexplained noises captured, that the very definition of EVP is almost irrelevant anymore. People in this field have gone so far as to define a variety of classes for the types of EVPs that can be captured, forgetting, it seems, that the definition is electronic voices that are generated that resemble speech. I cannot even tell you how many times I have been asked to review an EVP that is far from any speech type sounds, but knockings, banging, creak, and other odd audio anomalies. Are these really considered EVP's or are they simply audio anomalies?
There are many ways to even misinterpret what is believed to be speech patterns because of how the audio is recorded, so labeling something an EVP before it can be definitively determined to be such, seems a bit presumptuous and careless as a researcher. The majority of investigators and researchers have a habit of "cleaning" their audio, which is just their way of saying "we don't know what the cause of the audio was or if it was saying something, so we altered the original audio in an attempt to find out". This act alone causes more digital artifacts to present themselves and be heard in the audio, making the possibility of misinterpretation and false positives highly increased. The biggest causes for claimed EVPs are simply apophenia, which is a natural ability to find significance in insignificant and random data, and audio pareidolia, which is a natural tendency for humans to associated random patterns with familiar and known patterns, such as random sounds interpreted as voices of known languages.
Another area that is often mislabeled is photographs. There is such a strong debate of paranormal type photographs, that is has become near impossible to really determine what may or may not be paranormal, yet there are still many groups that are quick to label something paranormal simply because they cannot find a valid explanation that they find suitable. While there are many arguments as to why, I will leave that for a future article. Again, a photographic anomaly does not instantly become paranormal simply because the group cannot find a logical and rational explanation. 9 times out of 10, the methods in which the groups/individuals captured the photograph are far less than controlled and many in a chaotic mess of an investigation, that a logical and reasonable answer would be hard to determine based on the lack of background information alone. We are left with simply guessing at the cause, and frankly, that is no better than simply assuming it is paranormal in nature. Any photograph that contains unknown causes are first and foremost anomalies. They cannot be labeled paranormal until we fully can disprove any logical and rational explanation. This obviously will lead to more controlled methods for capturing data while in the field, or at least it should. The more controlled our methods for gathering data, the better we can determine the outside variables that consistently tarnish the data the is being collected.
Of course this doesn't stop simply at audio and photographic data, every aspect of paranormal research seems to be clouded by falsities and presumptuous claims. So again, are we labeling data correctly? Are we being quick to label something before we can fully explain what it is? If you do not know what the cause of the anomaly is, that does not equate to the paranormal or paranormal type answers. Do the entire field a favor and please label your data correctly. It is ok to say that you don't know what something is. That is why this is called research.
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