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Debunking PseudoSkeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers

Argument # 5:  The “anecdotal evidence is invalid” argument.


Stated as: “All that we have to support paranormal claims is anecdotal evidence, which is unreliable and invalid evidence.”


Corollary: “Anecdotal evidence is worthless as scientific evidence.”


"Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world. All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it." - Albert Einstein


The “anecdotal evidence is invalid” argument is perhaps the one most often used by skeptics, and also the core philosophical difference between believers and skeptics.  In fact, this issue is often the impasse point that the debates between believers and skeptics reach.  The term “anecdote” technically refers to an unpublished story or personal testimony.  But in this case, it refers to any eyewitness account or claim of a paranormal nature without hard evidence to corroborate it.


This classification is one of the main categories that skeptics put paranormal evidence into in order to dismiss it. (Another category being the “unreplicable / uncontrolled” group that scientific experiments supporting psi are often put into.  See Argument # 17 and Argument # 18)  Skeptics who use this argument often claim that the evidence we have for paranormal claims is largely anecdotal and therefore worthless as scientific evidence.  They also claim that anecdotal evidence is invalid because it is largely untestable and subject to error.  Some skeptics will even go so far as to say that anecdotal evidence is zero evidence.  Not surprisingly though, skeptics tend to quote anecdotal evidence when it supports their side! (another double standard)  Therefore it appears that classifying evidence as “anecdotal” is simply a dimissal tactic to try to discredit evidence that skeptics can’t explain away. 


There are many factual and critical problems with this tactic.


1)  While it may be true that most of the paranormal evidence is largely anecdotal in nature, by no means is it true that they are worthless or invalid.  The fact is that most anecdotes, personal accounts, and what we remember check out most of the time or at least point to something real.  Rarely is it ever based on nothing at all.  For example, if someone told me that there was a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit at the local mall taking photos with kids, the odds are that if I went to the mall to verify it, it would check out most of the time (and if the Santa dressed man isn’t there at the time, he was there earlier at least).  Or, if I went to the supermarket and asked the staff what aisle number the bread was at, most of the time the aisle he would tell me would be the one that has bread.  Likewise, if I was inside a building and someone came in and said it was raining outside, most of the time it would check out.  Either it would be raining now, or the wet floor would show that it was raining earlier.  Similarly, when someone tells me what the ending is of a movie or book, it usually always checks out when I watch the movie or read the book.  It’s that simple!  There are countless examples like this that I could use, most of which are very mundane.  Obviously, these types of simple ordinary everyday anecdotes point to something real.  Now, since the skeptical philosophy about anecdotes doesn’t hold up when applied to simple mundane examples, why should it be used to evaluate paranormal experiences and claims?  It makes no sense at all.


One argument I use that always gets these skeptics goes like this.  I ask them about a country they’ve never been to before, such as France for example.  And I state it like this:  “Since you’ve never been to France before, and you have no real evidence that it exists other than anecdotes you heard, do you assume then that it doesn’t exist for now?  After all, the photos, videos, and souvenirs from that country could all be forgeries, you just don’t know do you?”  The skeptic will usually reply with “But I can fly to France and verify that it exists.”  And that answer totally misses the point, so I then counter with the key question “Yeah but UNTIL you go to France, do you assume for NOW that it doesn’t exist, based on your skeptical philosophy that anecdotal evidence is invalid?”  That stumps them EVERYTIME!  They NEVER have a response to that one.


Suffice to say, if these skeptics truly believed that anecdotal evidence in general is invalid, then they could not function in life, for they would not believe anything told.  They would refuse directions when they are lost, they would disbelieve every story told to them during their family reunions (even by the most honest and credible of their family members), invalidate all reports given to them in their workplace, etc.  They know it too, and most likely do not live that way.  Therefore, as mentioned before, this is all just a word game play to them, not about seeking the truth.


2)  Anecdotal is not considered zero evidence or worthless by our society.  Anyone with common sense who isn’t detached from society knows this.  Courts consider eyewitness testimony as admissible evidence (though not proof).  Employers consider reference letters, character references of friends and former employers, and background checks to be evidence of a job candidate’s performance.  Marketing people conduct surveys to get important useful information about the market.  A degree of anecdotal evidence is relied upon in everyday society.  Obviously, if anecdotal evidence was of zero value, it wouldn’t be like this.  But it is, so this demonstrates that these philosophical skeptics are all about playing a closed-minded philosophical word/labeling game, rather than being realistic about anything.  Yet when confronted with reality, they continue to just throw labels and semantics out at them, until those who know better simply ignore them.  It’s obvious that they either lack the most basic common sense, are in denial, or playing a deliberate game of philosophy.


Factors measuring degree of reliability in anecdotal evidence


3)  What these pseudoskeptics don’t realize is that not only is anecdotal evidence mostly reliable with regard to everyday things, but its degree of validity is can be measured based on several factors. 


a)  The number of eyewitnesses, testimonials and claims.

b)  The consistency of the observations and claims.

c)  The credibility of the witnesses.

d)  The clarity of and proximity of the observation.

e)  The state of mind of the witnesses. 

f)  What the witnesses/experiencers stand to gain from their testimony or claim.


Here is an elaboration on these variables that determine the degree of reliability of anecdotal evidence, and how they have been more than adequately met for many paranormal phenomena.


a)  The number of eyewitnesses, testimonials and claims.  The more eyewitnesses, testimonies, and claims there are, the greater the weight of evidence.  Anyone knows that, and almost everyone operates that way, except pseudoskeptics of course.  Now, if there was only one claim in the world of a psychic experience, that wouldn’t be much.  But if a considerable number of people told me the same thing including people I know and trust, then I might think that there could be something to it.  And if has to do with a sizable proportion of the world population throughout history, then that’s incredibly significant.  To put it simply, something is MORE likely to be true the more people attest to it.  It’s not an absolute rule of course, just a general tendency overall.  In the case of psychic experiences, surveys show that two-thirds of Americans claim to have had them, which is a significant number ranging over two hundred million in this country alone, not counting the rest of the world!  Even the skeptical organization CSICOP admits this stat in articles on their website such as and


b)  The consistency in the observations and claims of witnesses.  The consistency in the reports we get is also a significant factor that people consider.  People trust consistency because it makes lying or mistake much less likely.  Of course, consistency in observations and experiences does not mean that what was perceived was really what occurred, but it helps rule out fraud for the most part and points us in the right direction.  This criteria is also met for some paranormal phenomena.  In multiple witness sightings of ghosts and UFO’s for instance, there are accounts of several or more people witnessing the same thing and describing the same details.  Even more striking is consistency among people who don’t know each other nor live near one another.  For example, in the case of NDE’s, we have great consistency among experiencers in the form of seeing their body below them, moving through a tunnel, going to a great light of love that some call God, going through a life review, returning with permanent life changes, etc. 


c)  The credibility of the witnesses.  The credibility of those making the reports and claims is also relevant.  Factors that influence credibility include integrity, character, whether they’ve been known to lie before, education and expertise, mental stability, how well we know them personally (obviously you would place more value in the claim of someone you know and trust as opposed to a stranger), etc.  We definitely have anecdotal evidence from this group for various paranormal/psychic phenomena.  That is indisputable.  Doctors and scientists of esteemed reputations have attested to miracles or paranormal phenomena.  Trained radar personnel and Air Force observers have observed UFO’s both on radar and in the sky.  Accomplished quantum physicists have found quantum evidence that make psychic phenomena more plausible, such as the discovery that particles behave differently when observed as opposed to unobserved, the nonlocality and connectedness of twin particles that are split, etc. (see Fred Alan Wolfe’s Taking the Quantum Leap and Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe)  Prominent Psychiatrists such as Dr. Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters, have discovered and documented clinical evidence that past life memories are real and can be verified.  Besides experts, people that we know and trust also claim to experience or observed things of a paranormal nature.  Note that I’m not saying that an appeal to authority means that it’s right, only that it carries more weight as a general rule.


d)  The proximity and clarity of the observation.  How close and clear an observation or experience takes place also an important factor.  If someone thinks they see Bigfoot as a speck in the distance, then it could be dismissed as almost anything.  However, if they saw Bigfoot at close-up point-blank-range, then it would be much more compelling and harder to dismiss.  For the person to be mistaken at point-blank-range, he/she would have to be either lying or greatly hallucinating and in need of help.  Otherwise, the skeptics should do some serious thinking about their beliefs!  Again, this criteria has been met for some paranormal phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFO’s and apparitions, which have been reportedly seen at point-blank-range in crystal clarity.  Any research into will reveal lists of testimonials of this close-up nature.


e)  The state of mind of the witness at the time.  Another variable is the mental state of the witness, which include factors such as their alertness level, fatigue level, intoxication level, emotional level, fear and panic level, etc.  This criteria has also been satisfied for paranormal/psychic phenomena because many of the witnesses were sober, awake and sane at the time of their observations and experiences.


f)  What the witnesses/experiencers stand to gain from their testimony or claim.  Whether the witnesses profit in any way is also a factor to consider, since it would put doubt on their sincerity if they have ulterior motives which might skew their objectivity.  On the other hand, if they have nothing to gain then they are less likely to be manipulating us unless it was out of their genuine belief.  This is especially so if they’ve suffered ridicule and damage to their reputation for their claims.  The latter has been true for both paranormal experiencers as well as those who made new discoveries that validated paranormal phenomena.  Esteemed scientists and experts in their fields have risked their reputations to share their discoveries.  These include physicist David Bohm (a protйgй of Einstein and author of Wholeness and the Implicate Order) who postulated consciousness related quantum physics theories that contradicted the reductionist views of the universe, Miami Chair of Psychiatry Dr. Brian Weiss (author of Many Lives, Many Masters) who endured ridicule and criticism from his peers for his clinical reports and discoveries in past life regression, and others. 


Now of course not all of the evidence for every paranormal and psychic phenomena have met all these criteria, but many of them have met some or all of them.  Therefore we can conclude that the evidence for them is overwhelmingly strong, and certainly not zero evidence like pseudoskeptics claim. 


In reality though, anecdotes are part of the scientific process of collecting raw data.  They may not constitute scientific proof, but they are definitely a form of evidence.  One of the world’s top NDE experts, Dr. Peter Fenwick, explained this to a caller on a radio show here:



This isn’t saying of course, that we should believe every anecdotal claim out there, which would be foolish.  But just because an anecdotal claim doesn’t fit one’s world view, doesn’t mean that it must be due to mistake, fraud or hallucination.  The bottom line here is that although lots of people saying something doesn’t mean it’s true, (the ad populum argument) it at makes it MORE LIKELY to be true compared to if no one at all said it was true.


Ordinarily, anecdotal evidence this strong is accepted as valid evidence in normal situations, so why not in regard to paranormal or psychic phenomena, especially when it’s so common?  The reason is because pseudoskeptics don’t think these things are possible, therefore they assume that the fallibility of anecdotes must be the cause.  In my experience with skeptics, no matter how much evidence you give them, they will still find excuses to reject them, even if it means imposing double standards, denying facts or preferring false explanations over paranormal ones.  It is apparent that closed-minded skeptics aren’t looking for evidence, but ways to shut it out to protect their views.  After all, if they were really looking for evidence, then why would they shut it out every time it comes up?


It can also be said that the skeptic’s subjective dismissal of another’s experience is just as unreliable as any anecdotal evidence.  Greg Stone, a consciousness expert and fierce knowledgeable debater on my discussion list, makes some intriguing points about how skeptics treat anecdotal evidence:


(referring to the writings of Skeptic Paul Kurtz):

“I suggest that rather than rejecting the eyewitness accounts of so many as unreliable, that he understand that his offhand subjective dismissal of another’s experience is equally unreliable. What is missing is his attempt at understanding what is -- based upon the accounts. That they are laden with the complexity of personal observation does not mean the underlying phenomena are not actual and real. The confusion of the scientist in sorting out complex evidence does not itself render the phenomena only means the scientist lacks the insight or tools to do the work.  Only a fool of a scientist would dismiss the evidence and reports in front of him and substitute his own beliefs in their place.”


The Ebay feedback challenge that a pseudoskeptic failed and was caught lying red-handed


To give you an example of the ridiculous extent they will carry this argument to, I once tested the skeptics on my own list by asking them if they a) considered the feedback rating on to be of any significance, and b) if they would trust someone more if they had a higher feedback rating rather than a negative one, and c) if they would bid on an item from a person with a 99 percent positive feedback rating or someone with much less and many negative comments in their seller profile.  This was a no-win situation for them, for if they admitted that feedback ratings mattered in their decisions, then they would be acknowledging that anecdotal evidence was evidence after all.  If they didn’t, and remained consistent, then they would be denying a simple reality that every user of Ebay, even fools and children, knew, which was that the higher the positive feedback rating on a seller, the more reliable and trustworthy, and vice versa.  Yet these skeptics chose the latter, giving plenty of outlandish reasons for doing so, saying that feedback ratings didn’t affect their decisions on Ebay, even claiming that they were too easily faked.  It was obvious they knew nothing about Ebay and the mechanisms set in place to prevent such things.  One who calls himself Dr. H said:


> }>  Feedback rating are not a reliable indicator
> }> because
> }>  the feedback ratings themselves are unreliable.


I challenged Dr. H to find me even one experienced Ebay seller (with over a thousand positive feedback comments) who would agree that feedback ratings mean nothing with regard to trustworthiness.  They couldn’t and didn’t.  Though Dr. H claimed to have used Ebay before, he refused to give me his Ebay username ID (which was public information anyway) so I could check up on how experienced he really was in Ebay transactions.  After dodging the question many times, he finally answered:


> }Again, what is your Ebay user name?  Let me check
> to
> }see how experienced you are.
> }
> }WELL???????  Why did you dodge the question?
>  I don't give out my personal information casually.
>  That's one of the reasons that I don't get scammed.


Then, he agreed to give me his Ebay username after I give him my social security number, driver’s license, and credit card information. 


> }> }Dr H, let me see how experienced you are on
> Ebay. 
> }> }Tell me your Ebay user name so I can look up
> your
> }> }transactions.  If you want to look me up, my
> user
> }> name
> }> }is WWu777.
> }> 
> }>  First give me your SS#, driver's license #, and
> }> major credit card # 
> }>  with expiration date.  Oh and the 3-digit
> security
> }> code on the back, too.
> }> 
> }>  LOL.
> }> 
> }> Dr H


When I called his bluff and provided that information, he didn’t follow through.  How can you trust these bet-welching skeptics to seek the truth?  When I pressed him on it, he finally gave me a username “Hiawatha”.


However, the user ID “Hiawatha” had ZERO feedbacks on Ebay, proving that he lied about having a lot of experience on Ebay!  Furthermore, the user name “Hiawatha” was listed as being located in Michigan, whereas this Dr H fellow is supposed to be from Oregon.  Ebay sublisted other variations of the user ID name he gave me, but none were from Oregon.  You can look it up yourself.  If you go to Ebay and do a search for that user name "Hiawatha", here is what will come up:


hiawatha ( 0 )  

7 years 10 months  

MI, United States 


Under that, Ebay lists these similar variations.


Close Matches:

h1awatha ( 160)  

2 years 7 months  

United Kingdom 



haiwatha ( 383)  

4 years 1 month  




hawatha ( 28)  

3 years 9 months  

MA, United States 



hia_watha ( 103)  

4 years 10 months  

CA, United States 



hiawaitha ( 214) Go to member's eBay Store 

3 years 9 months  



Hiawaitha`s Wigwam 

hiawatha. ( 4 )  

5 years 7 months  

IL, United States 



hiawatha9 ( 62)  

3 years 8 months  

ME, United States 



hiawathad ( 5 )  

6 years 8 months  

WA, United States 



1hiawatha ( 1 )  

1 year 10 months  

VT, United States 



6hiawatha ( 2 )  

1 year 10 months  

WI, United States 



hiawartha ( 4 )  

3 years 7 months  




hiawatha5 ( 9 )  

6 years 3 months  

VA, United States 



hiawatha6 ( 14)  

6 years 1 month  

FL, United States 



hiawathia ( 2 )  

3 years 11 months  

MI, United States 







As you can see, the user name he gave me, "Hiawatha", has ZERO feedback, and the user name is listed as being from Michigan too.  And none of the close matches Ebay lists have a Hiawatha from Oregon either.  How odd.  Dr H claimed to have some feedback on Ebay, and that he lives in Oregon.  I've even called him out of the internet yellow pages before at his Eugene, OR residence and got him on the phone.


Dr H has been TOTALLY UNABLE to explain this discrepancy.  Instead, he sidestepped it and questioned my ability to look up Ebay user names (like that’s soooooooo hard).  It's funny of him to say that, since he has zero feedbacks whereas my Ebay user name "WWu777" now has 84 feedback points, demonstrating that I am a real Ebay user while he is a pseudo and fraud.


Those are the undeniable facts.


To further expose his BS, I challenged Dr H to email my Ebay user name from his through Ebay’s site, to prove that it is his.  Anyone can send a message from their Ebay user name to another.  Yet he refused to comply, or respond to the request, cause deep down, he knows he can't, cause he gave a false Ebay user name, and has no way to weasel out of it.  So he remained silent about it.


Now, if these pseudoskeptics are dishonest about such little things, then why should we trust them in matters of the afterlife, paranormal, and scientific research?! This is the kind of fishy dodgeball they play.  Obviously, this big argument of theirs that “anecdotal evidence is invalid” doesn’t even work with simple down-to-earth venues like online auction transactions, so why use it as a measuring tool for reality and truth?  Anyone with common sense knows that in regard to Ebay feedback being relevant, they are utterly and completely wrong.  Yet, as I mentioned, these skeptics are not about truth or reality at all, but about playing philosophical word games.

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