“There are no experts on the paranormal” is a common sentiment among those involved in paranormal research, most notably among prominent names in the ghost hunter segment of the field. Interestingly, I personally have yet to hear the same statement from anyone in the UFO field. This expression seems to make sense and sounds so good. But does it really hold water?
Do “Experts” Know Everything?
According to the dictionary, the word “expert” is defined as “a person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.”(1) Notice that the definition does not say “someone who knows everything about a certain subject.” It is clear from this definition that a person would simply need to have a “high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject” to be considered an “expert.”
Compare two fields of scientific study: gravity and string theory. If you perform an online search for “expert” in either of these two fields, you will find a list of learned men and women considered as such. Stephen Hawking comes up as “one of the world’s top experts in gravity” on one website.(2) However, are we to believe that Stephen Hawking knows everything about gravity? Of course not. No one knows everything about anything, most of all, gravity. But Hawking does know a lot more than most, hence, he is considered an “expert.” New York City Physics Professor, Michio Kaku, is considered to be an expert in string theory.(3) But he undoubtedly would tell you that he does not know everything about it or even whether it is ultimately true. Yet, he is considered an “expert” (and rightly so).
With a little research, you may be shocked to learn that many of the working theories that science uses are just that—theories. This includes the “Big Bang” theory, theories of star creation, atomic particles, evolution, M theory, and the many-worlds theory, to name a few. Even still, these fields have many “experts.”
How is the anomalous research field any different? We have many theories about the nature of ghosts, spirits, UFOs, abductions, aliens, etc. Is it not possible that certain men and women in the anomalous and paranormal research field could be considered “experts?” Consider Dr. William G. Roll, for example. He is an academician, parapsychologist, and ParaNexus Consultant. He is noted for his research concerning “poltergeist” activity and coined the term “Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinetic” (RSPK) activity as a scientific term to describe it. He has presented papers internationally on such topics as “Parapsychology & Quantum Entanglement.”(4) Dr. Roll is certainly an expert in the field.
Also consider ParaNexus Consultant, Brad Steiger.(5) While I am not aware of Brad possessing any higher degrees, his career as a paranormal researcher has spanned over 50 years and he has authored and/or co-authored over 166 books and over 2,000 articles on paranormal topics. With over 17 million copies of his books in print, he has certainly educated himself throughout his career and rightly deserves to be considered an expert.
It becomes clear that—just like academia—the anomalous research field also has experts even though these men and women do not know everything about the field and do not have all of the answers. And this is exactly as it should be.
Why We Need Experts
As we have seen, the concept that there are no experts in the paranormal field really doesn’t hold water. Psychologically, this faulty concept is actually a mechanism or crutch for some who lack self-confidence in the field to feel comfortable among their peers when speaking or writing about their ideas and hypotheses. Furthermore, this concept can actually lead to irresponsible researcher behavior such as posting highly questionable photos on one’s website and labeling them as paranormal in nature.
Further still, this concept actually keeps the paranormal field from evolving because it discourages knowledge and growth. The concept implies that it is not really possible to learn much about anomalous phenomena because no one knows much about it. This is simply untrue. Many people actually know quite a bit about it, although we have yet to explain it fully.
This makes it clear that we actually want and need experts! Becoming an expert in any field is the logical and natural result of growing in knowledge and skill.
Determination and Responsibility of an Expert
In some instances, a person may properly be a self-ascribed expert, but “expert” is usually a relative and rather subjective term; it is often ascribed to a person automatically by others due to education or prominence in a field of study. People looked upon as “experts” in the paranormal field include team founders, researchers who have garnered some degree of celebrity status from appearances on TV or in documentaries, researchers who lecture frequently, those who regularly write about paranormal topics, research groups who may appear in local newspapers and the media, and others.
Like it or not, prominent individuals in the field are looked upon as experts especially by the public regardless of whether the individual’s “expert” status is well-deserved. Due to this fact, all researchers—and especially prominent individuals—owe a debt of responsibility to both the paranormal field and the public. Responsible researchers must always weigh their comments, findings, and evidence to make sure that no harm ensues as a result. Responsible researchers understand that what they say can and does have an impact on those who hear. It is important for them to make sure this impact is positive and does not promote fear.
With the foregoing in mind, continue to grow and learn in this field. Become an expert! If we internally assume the role of an expert and the responsibility that goes with it, we will think twice about how we conduct our research, investigations, and interactions with clients. We will be more apt to think before we post alleged paranormal evidence on our website knowing that we want to set a good example of doing no harm.
(1) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.