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Dismissed with offhand general remarks

Mar 03, 2002 07:15 AM
by Daniel Caldwell

Many persons are thoroughly convinced that some
paranormal phenomena (i.e., psychokinesis,
materializations, levitation, etc. ) cannot possibly
be facts, no matter how well authenticated certain
cases happen to be. Reports are commonly ignored, or
shrugged off with only a wisecrack , or at best
dismissed with offhand general remarks about the
psychology of deception or of illusion.

Such persons who dimiss even the best attested reports
are in so doing only testifying unawares that,
nothwithstanding, their invoking the name of science,
they forget that science speaks not thus a priori but
only after careful inquiry into the facts.

Such persons have the tendency to assume from the
outset that every report of materialization,
levitation, etc. is necessarily mistaken. When such
critics assert (directly or indirectly) that the
witness of the facts must necessarily have been
deceived, they are displaying the inverted credulity
which assumes that there are no limits whatever to the
possibilities of deception. Such critics will force a
normal kind of explanation upon an apparently
paranormal event by ignoring or trimming or stretching
the record of the circumstances under which the
occurrrences took place.

Some critics have the strategy of subjecting such a
paranormal event to a minute scrutiny for "possible"
flaws. Since there is no such thing as the "perfect"
(whatever that might mean!) experience (or experiment)
it is just a matter of time and patience before one
finds such a "hypothetical" flaw. Indeed, if the
critic is willing to go to any lengths (i.e., ignore
the rule of "give evidence" and speculate ad
infinitum) this becomes a game in which he cannot
lose! It requires only some ingenuity to think up
some way in which the results might have been flawed
or faked and, with any luck, apparent "suspicious"
features can be found or suggested to substantiate the
critic's conjectures.

The challenge that "a flaw is possible" or that "fraud
was possible" is an insurmountable one, since the
critic can always claim that everyone involved in the
event was mistaken or lying about any or all of the
details. Even if the event is repeated, it could be
claimed that it is "possible" that all involved were
deceived or deceiving. This impasse shows the
importance of dealing with the question of direct
evidence rather than various possibilities.

The proponent of a paranormal claim and the opponent
must agree on a procedure for verifying the claim. It
is evident that unless such an agreement is reached,
hypothetical arguments concerning claims and
counterclaims will be, in principle, insoluble.

Therefore, the only honest approach to the subject is
to deal with the actual data and evidence with the
standard rules of evidence and accepted canons of
logical thinking, and to follow the evidence wherever
it may lead.

[The above compiled from various sources.]
Submitted by:

Daniel H. Caldwell
"...Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things at
their right value; and unless a judge compares notes and
hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision."
H.P. Blavatsky. The Theosophist, July, 1881, p. 218.

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