“…Approach (2) is always a logically valid claim because it is unfalsifiable. …”
Did you mean to write “logically INvalid”? Or perhaps “falsifiable”? Or am I missing an ironic point here?
“…verifiable physical evidence could conceivably be sufficient to show a paramormal event has occorred-- or at least an event which violates physical laws as we know them…”
Let us take as a premiss, just for fun, that “ghosts” only appear in the “mind’s eye” of the person who (at that instant) believes he is seeing them; and yet they are in fact real entities, after-death persons. (That is to say, it is their nature that they do not appear in a public, physical, optical, light-wave-ical sense.) I ask you not to fight the “given” here–that they are real, independent thingies–but rather to address the issue raised by the premiss. Which is: What could one do to convince the world of their real existence? Anything?–because all we have is testimony.
You don’t assume that my Meta events are somehow connected to that procedure known as meta-analysis…do you?
“…imagine a lawyer or investigator evaluating the evidence. Existing scientific understanding would be one piece of evidence. Direct observation of levitation (of whatever quality) would be another. No problem with rationality so far…”
But I believe some other Dopers (and maybe even a moderator or two…) would take issue with this. For example, I interpret the approach of the SICOP people as something like: These extraordinary claims, if they are to be taken as validated in a scientific sense, require something more specialized than the sort of “proof” a lawyer might adduce in a court of law. That is: no amount of evidence regarding the probity, acuity, or sincerity of a witness–or of any number of witnesses–outweighs the judgment of scientists (and certain magicians) that events of that character can not ever occur. (Roughly: Hume on “Miracles.”)
“…There is no reason to believe that evidence for UFOs etc. should be ‘utterly capricious and utterly unpredictable’…”
If your “should” means “must,” I completely agree. In this post I am choosing to posit the paranormalist’s nightmare, the absolute worst-case scenario…namely that these events are both (a) real, and (b) what I said. And I’m asking if events of that character must always be regarding as doubtful. You’re suggesting ways in which one might validate them nevertheless.
(BTW, what does the term “jealous phenomenon” mean?)
Fatima as an example? Let’s say that we have a situation much like the one we actually do have. Huge numbers of people are present in a field at a certain time. A majority “feels the burn” but observes nothing extraordinary. A significant percentage–perhaps 20%, to be generous–observes something odd about the behavior of the sun (or what they take to be the sun). Small and smaller subgroups report odder and odder things, with some (a handful?) “seeing” the sun whirl around in the sky and divebomb the field. And the tiniest group of all–perhaps even just one little girl–reports an apparition of a woman, which bends down a tree branch, etc.
Now in a scientific, astronomical, cosmological sense–this AIN’T sense at all. The sun can’t go dancing around; and if, somehow, it did, it would be reported the world over (and have catastrophic effects of our planet). So what do we make of these reports, and claims, and reports of claims, and claims of reports? If a few hundred people march on the local observatory swearing that they observed the solar miracle with their own eyes–does it matter at all? Doesn’t science HAVE to assume that we’re dealing with mass hysteria, magic mushrooms, etc? And wouldn’t officialdom HAVE to make the same assumption EVEN IN CASES WHERE THE REPORTED EVENT “REALLY HAPPENED”?
If so, we have a demonstration that our “official” validation system simply can not deal with lawless–yet real–events.
And so the absence of such validation is of no significance to the question of whether Meta events ever do, in fact, happen.
Or–is there an alternative logically valid, rationally persuasive method by which to verify such occurrences?