The Skeptic's Dream: An Imaginary Dialogue

Jim says he had a ghost sighting in the basement of the place where he works. Other people have seen the ghost, too. Jim trusts that his experience was a real one. He tried to tell his friend, a die-hard skeptic, all about it. Here's what happened.

Skeptic: I'm going to debunk your paranormal experience, Jim, because I'm sorry but I just can't believe it. Oh, but wait! Before I forget, I've got to tell you about an amazing dream I had last night.

I dreamed I made love to Marilyn Monroe!

Jim: No, you didn't.

Skeptic: What do you mean, no I didn't? I'm telling you I had a dream that I made love to Marilyn Monroe.

Jim: Impossible.

Skeptic: How can you say that? It was my experience.

Jim: It's ridiculous because in my opinion dreams like that are not possible.

Skeptic: Of course they are. I had the dream!

Jim: You are either delusional or making up that story to get attention for yourself. You and Marilyn Monroe. Oh, brother.

Skeptic: I'm telling you I had the dream. I remember it quite vividly.

Jim: Oh yeah? Prove it.

Skeptic: Prove it? How can I possibly prove it? It was a dream.

Jim: So you say. I say dreams like that are impossible.

Skeptic: No, they're not. In fact, a friend of mine told me he had a dream just last week of making love to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Jim: Can he prove it? No. Like you, he's either delusional or a liar.

Skeptic: Now you're calling me a liar?

And my friend? And any other guy who's had a similar experience? We're all delusional or liars?

Jim: Provide the evidence or shut up.

Skeptic: There's no way I can provide evidence for that. It was a dream. How can I provide evidence?

Jim: Sorry, but if you cannot bring it into a lab for study, we have nothing to talk about.

Skeptic: Aha! But I can go into a sleep study lap and they CAN tell from my brain waves when I am dreaming! So I can prove it.

Jim: Oh, sure. You can prove that you dream. But this nonsense that you dreamed about you and Marilyn Monroe - that you can't prove. And why? Because such dreams are impossible.

Skeptic: Says you!

Jim: Says the lack of evidence.

Skeptic: But these types of dreams are relatively common. I'll bet there have been tens of thousands - maybe millions -- of such dream experiences over thousands of years. You're just dismissing all those experiences?

Jim: Worthless anecdotes. People have faulty memories and their senses are easily fooled. Stop talking about silly dreams about things that are clearly impossible.

Skeptic: That's just your opinion.

Jim: Hey, we have to look at this scientifically. You cannot prove it scientifically. Like I said, bring it into a lab and let's see the replicable results. If it's true, you should be able to repeat the experience on demand.

Skeptic: But we cannot do that with dreams! That's not how they work! Listen, you can deride my experience all you want. I know what I dreamed. And I believe my friend that he had his dream. You can't take that experience away from us.

And someday science probably will have the tools, the technology to prove that I had that specific dream.

Jim: All I can say is, dream on. Just keep fooling yourself with that foolishness.

Skeptic: Forget it. There's nothing I can say to convince you.

Jim: Nope.

Skeptic: Can't you even concede that my dream is at least possible?

Jim: But it's not possible. Such dreams do not and cannot exist. Zero evidence.

Skeptic: I'm sorry I told you. I can't prove it, so I should have just kept it to myself.

Jim: Yup. Because you just sound like a gullible idiot.

Skeptic: Fine! Fine! All right, now... let me tell you why your ghost experience is utterly ridiculous....