Monday, March 26, 2007

Neat answer to "psychic" challenge

My brugly other e-mailed me this link, comparing photography to psychic readings:
How do you prove photography to a blind man?

That was the question I was asked: how would you prove to a blind man, that photography exists?

I knew what he was getting at. We had been discussing psychics. He was a firm believer in psychic powers, had had psychic experiences, and regularly visited a psychic. His point was, since I had not experienced psychic powers, I would never be able to believe in what he “knew” to be true. You could never prove to a blind man that photography exists, and likewise no one would ever be able to demonstrate to me that psychic powers were real.

It took me about ten seconds to think of a way to show he was wrong. This is what I said. Give the blind man a camera, a tripod and a remote shutter release. (Ideally the camera is a Polaroid, or a digital with an instant picture facility.) Everyone leaves the room but the blind man. He takes a picture of himself, and holds up a number of fingers (1 to 5) at random. The sighted person comes back into the room, looks at the picture and says “you were holding up X fingers”. If he gets the right number, and continues to do so every time this experiment is performed, the blind man will eventually conclude that photography is real. Technically, he will conclude the hypothesis that “a camera can record a visual image”, might be true.

He gives details for extending the test, then comparing it to the "success" rate of psychics, worldwide. Please, read the whole thing -- and don't skip the comments.

For most of my life I've wanted to believe in psychic powers, supernatural occurrences, and the like. It would be really cool if we could use The Force to shape our universe for good or evil. So far, though, I've yet to be overwhelmed by evidence. So I'm an agnostic, a skeptic. I'd like to believe... and I'd like to win the lottery, too.

If and when the paranormal world can be proven via something akin to photography -- a genuinely scientific approach, that is -- perhaps I can see fit to let down my guard and believe, even if only a little. But then, there were those fairy photographs... and the book... I may be doubting for a very, very, very long time.

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