Saturday, October 31, 2009

A New One for the Policy Manual

Over on Museum-L this week there was a curious request - did anyone have a Paranormal Investigation Policy? You may chuckle, but some museums that own or run historic properties apparently get inundated with requests from "researchers" who want to study paranormal phenomena. Just in case you haven't seen Ghost Hunters, these are people who festoon your historic house with microphones, cameras, thermometers, etc in search of spooks. The two "stars" of Ghost Hunters apparently learnt their trade by working as plumbers for Roto-Rooter. I kid you not. Anyway, I was tempted to write back to the list and say "yes, we have a policy - it's called a collections security policy and it says that letting totally unqualified whack-jobs wander around our museum in the middle of the night looking for ghosts is not in keeping with our duty of collections care." Jeeze, people! I guess this is why we write policies in the first place - to compensate for an absence of common sense.

If there is a serious side to this (and there probably isn't) then it's the fact that the proliferation of these idiotic paranormal shows is yet more evidence for the atrocious lack of respect afforded to science, scientific research, intellect, and scholarship in the USA. On the one hand, people are prepared to put their kids (and other people's kids) at risk of serious illness because they won'tbelieve a stack of hard scientific evidence on vaccine safety. But on the other hand, they'll sit down and watch a couple of ex-plumbers trying to prove the existence of ghosts, on the basis that "science can't explain everything." Those of us who do science for a living - and I guess I'd reluctantly have to include myself in that category - have spent years training, sitting exams, writing dissertations, applying for grants, running experiments, recording observations, testing hypotheses, and arguing the merits of our conclusions through a brutal peer review process. We didn't just wake up one morning and think "Hey, maybe I'll be a scientist today!" It would behove the great American Public to acknowledge the worth of that occasionally.
[PS - Happy Halloween!]

1 comment:

  1. Hail fellow Faces fan - You can be sure to hear rare live Faces footage on AXEFM.