Half-cocked Rationalization of the Paranormal: Silliness in Action
It’s tempting to find a rational explanation for a story quickly. But it isn’t rational if it’s not the correct explanation. If you whip out the wrong explanation, you’re just a half-cocked know-it-all supplementing one round of nonsense for another round of nonsense.
And it’s just as useless.
Here are the many ways you can be tripped up.
Sometimes the explanation for a spooky, inexplicable event that you have been told is simple.
Stunningly simple: it never happened.
Throughout the ages, people have been making up tales that somehow get turned into ‘true’ FOAFs. (That is a Friend of a Friend story, a name folklorists gave to urban legends.)
The Chase Vault legend probably goes in this category, as well as the tale of Lucy Lightfoot.
The Wrong Explanation
Captain Disillusion went on quite a rant when a few news anchors called a photo shopped image of a city floating over another city a Fata Morgana. He was mad because it would have taken a few minutes of reading the Wikipedia article to figure out that they are using the term Fata Morgana wrong.
Mick West of Metabunk had to debunk a ‘rational’ explanation of a snowball melting: the first people were mistaking a wicking effect for something else.
Famously, someone made a hurried, panicked announcement that a reported UAP was swamp gas, and people have made fun of it ever since.
Getting the right explanation takes more time and might take more time, but at least you don’t look like an idiot.
The BS Historian recently wrote a post pleading with others to stop medicalizing vampirism because it is stupid.
Explaining vampires with diseases just doesn’t work and doesn’t engage with the actual beliefs at all. People were digging up dead people on the belief that they were dead people come back to life, so any disease that effects living people is not a good explanation for anything vampire related.
Testimony Can be too Crummy to Come to a Conclusion
Lots of people have experienced stuff they don’t understand and then reported their confusion to others. They drop details and misremember things and misunderstand events. There is no way to figure out what is going on from their accounts and it is ok to just say, “Huh, interesting. Shame there is no way of knowing what that was about.”