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Tags ian stevenson , reincarnation

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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:20 PM   #41
Mister Agenda
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Originally Posted by plumjam View Post
Thanks. I looked it up in the dictionary and everything.
Can't say you didn't do your homework, then.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:21 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Whack01 View Post
I really wish that Chris Farely were back .

Unfortunately my brother thought he was a pterodactyl when we were little, does that mean he was re-incarnated? Magic 8 ball says 'Yes'
Lol
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:21 PM   #43
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There is not (and never has been) good evidence for reincarnation.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:24 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Others have dissected Ian Stevenson's "proof" before. I have done it for a few cases put forth as best evidence by Montague Keen. They do not stand up. I did this in another forum. If I can find my postings there, I'll copy the relevant bits to here.

Meantime, Space Ed, so that we don't make this a wild chasing of gooses round random mulberry bushes, perhaps you could pick the one case (or at most two cases) from Ian's Twenty Cases that you thing is strongest.

It serves everyone very little to come in and say "Debunk everything!"

Hello mate

Yeah unfortunately I couldnt get hold of the 20 cases book so i got the Life Before Life one written by one of his associates.

Id like to see these case dissections certainly.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:25 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Again I am aware of these problems and so are they.
Being aware of them is not equivalent to guarding against them. That is something Stevenson did not do and something you seemingly are willing to let him get away with.

That said, here is the bulk of my post on another forum dealing with reincarnation. The items come from Montaguu Keen's Million Dollar Challenge to debunk his twenty most persuasive items. Some of them are Stevenson's claims; some are not.

I'm not editing it so there may be typos from the original, and it may sound a bit testy because my debate opponent was extremely testy.

The original post also had my sources, but even that is lengthy so I'm leaving it out. Here goes:

-----------------------------
-----------------------------

#1: The Watseka Wonder

The claim: Mary Lurancy Vennum became episodically possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff from February 1, 1878 through May 21, 1878. During that time, Vennum—as Roff—revealed numerous intimate details about Roff, Roff’s family, and Roff’s friends that Vennum could not possibly have known.

The facts:

1. Vennum’s first “fit” came in July 1877; they recurred frequently through January of 1878.

2. Mary Roff had died at the age of 18 when Vennum was 15 months old.

3. The Roffs were long-time neighbors of the Vennums.

4. Vennum had no episodes of possession until she was seen by Dr. Stevens who came all the way from Wisconsin when Mr. Roff insisted on him because Stevens had treated Mary Roff.

5. Mr. Roff was present at the first session with Vennum and Stevens, and he was present at most of the following sessions. Mrs. Roff was present at some of them, too.

6. Vennum ‘brought forth’ numerous unidentified spirits but got no reaction. Later, when she said “Mary Roff,” Mr. Roff insisted that Mary be the one to speak.

7. Between sessions, Vennum—ostensibly as Mary Roff—spent considerable time at the Roff residence, speaking with and learning about the Roffs. The hits came only after several of these visits had occurred.

Debunked.

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#2: Uttara Huddar & Sharada

The claim: Uttara Haddar, at age 22 in 1973, manifested the spirit of Sharada, a Bengalese woman from 400 kilometers away and from the previous century. Haddar spoke Sharada’s language (Bengali) fluently though it was different from her own, and revealed remarkable knowledge about the customs of the times. She also revealed detailed knowledge about Sharada’s lineage.

The facts: Haddar had studied Bengali for years and could already speak it; it was similar to her native language. In addition, later analysis revealed that her use of it was impressive but not native or fluent. Her father had long been an admirer of Bengali revolutionaries and leaders and had studied them. He possessed books on Bengali history and culture. The only genealogical information Haddar revealed was information easily accessible to her in local records; she was not uneducated; she was a lecturer and public administrator.

Debunked.

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#3: Sumitra & Shira-Tripathy

I do not have information on this case and will not spend the money online for it. If, however, it is of the same caliber as the other cases of Stevenson’s, there is little reason to think it will withstand scrutiny.

Feel free to provide me detailed information about the case, if you want me to address it.


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#4: Jasbir Lal Jat

The claim: Like the others of Stevenson’s cases, it involves reincarnation.

The facts: Stevenson violates his own criteria for strong cases of reincarnation. These items are Stevenson’s, paraphrased from Stevenson (1975):

1. The utterances of the person must include “considerable detail.”
2. There must be a written record of utterances prior to any attempt at verification.
3. The utterances must be accurate.
4. The reincarnated person must demonstrate behavioral traits consistent with the known behavior of the reincarnee.
5. There must be birthmarks in the same location as birthmarks or wounds on the reincarnee.
6. The reincarnated person must demonstrate fluency in the language of the reincarnee.

With Jasbir:

1. The utterances are not in any detail at all, and Stevenson attributes to Jasbir utterances which—it is clear from his own text—came from other people with knowledge of who the reincarnee was supposed to be.
2. There was no written record prior to any attempt at verification.
3. The utterances were not accurate; Stevenson glosses over conflicting data.
4. There were no behavioral traits specific to just the reincarnee.
5. There were corresponding birthmarks, but there were other birthmarks, too. Stevenson fails to discuss the probability of birthmarks being in a particular spot, and he uses a very general locale to determine that birthmarks are in the right place.

I have not proven the Jasbir case to be total bunkum. I have shown that Stevenson did not make his case in the slightest.

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#5: Thompson/Gifford

The claim: After the death of Gifford, an artist, Thompson (not an artist) began painting scenes very similar to the paintings of Gifford, whom he did not know, and similar to places Gifford was known to have visited.

The facts: Thompson knew Gifford before Gifford died.

Note: This is one of Stevenson’s cases and demonstrates the unreliability of his work.

Debunked.

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#6: Past-life regression

This is another source (Tarazi) I do not have and cannot get without paying for it.

If you want to discuss it; provide me with the article.


#7: The Palm Sunday Case

The claim: A.J. Balfour loved Catherine Mary Lyttleton. Before he told her so, she died of typhus on Palm Sunday in 1876. From 1912 to 1918, medium Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold (that’s her maiden name; married name was Coombe-Tennant) channeled a spirit named Mrs. Willett who provided information about Balfour, information known only to Balfour and Lyttleton.

The facts: The sittings were mostly provided for Gerald Balfour, younger brother of A.J. In 1916, the sittings were held in A.J.’s house and A.J. attended several of them.
None of the impressive hits were made until the sittings were actually in A.J.’s house (including the silver box with Lyttleton’s locket of hair). Other hits were only found to be impressive after the fact by going back and re-interpreting what was said in earlier sittings based on the finding of the silver box. This is quite rightly called retro-fitting and indicates how vague the medium’s statements were and how they cannot be called evidence of an afterlife.

In addition, the medium’s sister-in-law was married to F.W.H. Myers, who was an active member of the SPR, so she was quite familiar with its workings. She met Balfour through the SPR and had ample opportunity to conduct research upon him.

Finally, it was Willett (as her control “Gurney”) who approached Balfour to come to the sittings, and it was Balfour’s sister, Mrs. Sidgwick, who said that Willet’s controls were obviously an extension of Willett’s personality because they uttered obvious lies and they could not respond coherently to direct questions, among other things.

Debunked.

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#8: Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard, the book and newspaper tests

The claim: Mrs. Leonard acted as medium for Mr. Thomas who reported that she provided unknowable specific information on the contents of books in other people’s homes and that she predicted unknowable specifics in as-yet-unpublished editions of the London Times.

The facts:

The answer is in Leonard’s own words from Thomas (1935):
I ‘sensed’ the appropriate spirit of the passage rather than the letters composing it.
Italics are in the original.

Another clue is that her “controls” varied; usually it was Feda, sometimes North Star, but for Mr. Thomas it was frequently Mr. Thomas’ own late father.

An additional tip-off lies in the fact that Mrs. Leonard was unable to perform unless her husband was present.

To be specific, though, here is the reading that impressed Thomas the most:
In your study there are books between the window and the fireplace, and a sort of inequality divides the shelves part of the way up. They are a peculiar set of books, and not everyone would read them. I can feel when books are of the popular sort, and those are not. … The fourth book from the left on the second shelf up is one that jumps about in time, skipping from one century to another.”
No text is given; no title; no page numbers. Her comment that it is not a popular book is easily guessable from knowing that she is dealing with an academic. Fireplaces in studies at the time were the norm, and they would never be next to the window. Hence, the logical place for a bookcase is between the fireplace and window. To this rather vague statement, Thomas replies with amazing credulity:
I recognized this description as accurate in each detail.
Wow.

In another book test with Miss Radclyffe-Hall and Lady Troutbridge as the sitters, Mrs. Leonard said that something on page 14 of “the fifth book from the left” there was something that gave a feeling of heat. She said that “heat” might mean fire or great anger.

On page 14, the ladies found the words “ardent patriot” and attributed Leonard with a great hit.

Double wow.

That part (the book tests) is debunked.

The newspaper test is next.

On May 7, 1920, Mrs. Leonard read for Mr. Thomas and told him that the May 9 edition of the London Times would mention his father’s name and the name of a place in which he had lived. This information would be in column one, one fourth of the way down.

On May 8, Thomas found—in the appropriate spot—the name John (his father’s name) and the word “Birkdale” which is what his father called the house he owned.

Impressive?

No. Do you really want me to debunk what amounts to a magician’s trick on a magic forum?

Do you also want me to point out how often people misremember what is actually said during a performance? Note that Thomas does NOT provide the actual transcript in this case. That’s a significant omission.

I would say “debunked” but there is nothing at all to debunk.

---
---


#9: Bim’s Book Test

The claim: This is another Mrs. Leonard book test, but the sitter was not Mr. Thomas. The sitters were Lord Glenconner and his son. Mrs. Leonard—through her control Feda—communicated with the spirit of Lord Glenconner’s other son, Edward (known to the family as Bim). Bim pointed the family to page 37 of a specific book where they would find reference to beetles that ruined trees. Mention of the beetle had personal significance to the family (it’s a digression to explain why; suffice it to say that it did have the significance).

The facts:The item found was not on page 37 but was on page 36. No specific book was mentioned; instead, a location was given in such a way that it could have been a couple of books. Leonard knew the types of books the father had because she had been sitting with them before.

Most importantly, there was no specific prediction. Bim merely said “Bim now wants to send a message to his father. This book is particularly for this father. Underline that, he says…Take the title and look at page 37.”

So if it hadn’t mentioned beetles, it might simply have mentioned trees (the book was, in fact, called “Trees”) which were also important to the family. Or it could have mentioned WWI which was important to the family. Or it could have mentioned a lost son which was important to the family.

This is a classic example of attributing a specific prediction to an action which was in fact very general.

As Johnson (1953) says:
…but we are concerned here with proof of survival, and we must admit that book tests do not help us in this.


Debunked.

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#10: Harry Stockbridge

Another article I don’t have and won’t pay for. Give me details.

---
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#11: Bobby Newlove

The claim: Mrs. Leonard (again) sat for Mr. Thomas who had received a letter from someone neither he nor Mrs. Leonard knew, Mr. Newlove. Newlove’s son, Bobby (or Bobbie; it is spelled both ways in the literature), died a few months earlier of diphtheria at age 10. Mr. Thomas handed the re-sealed letter to Mrs. Leonard who immediately provided verifiable information regarding the circumstances of Bobby’s death including the previously unknown fact that he acquired the diphtheria from a broken pipe near which Bobby and his friend played.

The facts:The information was not provided in the first sitting. There were eleven sittings in relation to Bobby Newlove and the verifiable information came later.

Remember that Mrs. Leonard always sat in a darkened room with her back to Thomas and with her husband present. Can you, as a magician, think of no way in which she could obtain information from a resealed envelope? Information which she could then use to develop further information over the course of many days?

I can.

Debunked.

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#12: Runki’s Missing Leg

The claim: Medium Hafstein Bjornsson channeled the spirit of Runolfur Runolfsson (Runki) who provided unknowable details about how he died and also pointed the sitters to the home of an unrelated man where Runki’s missing femur would be found.

The facts: Stevenson again. Runki (Runolfur Runolfsson) drowned in 1879. His body washed ashore some time later and was dismembered by animals. His remains, minus a femur, were buried. In 1920, an unidentified femur washed ashore near the same spot. It was passed around and its whereabouts lost.

In 1937, Hafstein holds séances. A spirit comes through who refuses to identify himself and who says his leg is “missing AT SEA.” This continues for over a year.

One sitter (Niels Carlson) invites Ludvik Gudmundsson to join the séances which he does on January 1, 1939.

Runki continues to refuse to identify himself but says Ludvik can help.

Niels and Ludvik demand Runki give more info or they won’t help.

Runki stops appearing.

Several months later, Runki reappears and says he is Runolfur Runolffson. He gives details of his death (all public record in a church archive) and says his femur is in Ludvik’s house.
A neighbor of Ludvik is found who suddenly remembers that a bone was placed in one wall of Ludvik’s house by the carpenter who built it. When this wall is torn down, no bone is found.

A fish factory employee who used to live in Ludvik’s house suddenly remembers that it is another wall that has the bone.

The group finds the bone in the second wall.

The bone is never confirmed as being the one washed ashore in 1920.

The bone is never confirmed as belonging to Runolfur Runolffson who died in 1879.

Runki is unable to say which of several unmarked, jumbled graves is his so that his remains may be reinterred and the found femur checked against his other bones.

Runki went from saying the bone was in the sea to the bone was in Ludvik’s house.

Runki gave no details until he had been missing for a time sufficient to allow Hafstein to conduct secret research.

Hafstein denied visiting the church archives until his signature was found on the visitor’s book, then he remembered that he did visit it, but claimed it was for an unrelated reason.

Debunked.

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#13: Biedermann

The claim: Different mediums were able to reveal the following unknowable information about Gustav Adolf Biedermann: (1) Lived in London (2) House was called Charnwood Lodge (3) Was a German national (4) Known as Gustav though it was not an actual name for him (5) Was a Rationalist (6) Was 70 years old when he died (7) Had his own business (8) Associated with London University.

The facts: The various mediums did not provide this information as a list. There was no “proxy” sitter but instead someone who knew of Biedermann who was also unfamiliar with the techniques of cold reading. In addition, the sittings occurred over a period of time sufficient to allow research into Biedermann. Gauld claims he acquired all the public documents the mediums might have accessed to secretly gain knowledge of Biedermann, but he did not secure those documents in an unknown place; they were accessible to the members of the SPR.

This is no more complicated than watching John Edward at work.

Debunked.


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#14: Gudmundur (Gundi) Magnusson

I don’t have this article. Bear in mind it’s another Stevenson case, and we’ve seen how weak they are.


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#15: Edgar Vandy

The claim: After Edgar Vandy’s death, his brothers asked Mr. Thomas to sit as a proxy for them with five separate mediums. The mediums revealed completely unknowable information about Vandy’s death and the secret machine he was working on.

The facts: None of the mediums gave Vandy’s name; the closest they came was mentioning the letter “E.” None of the mediums described Vandy’s death (he drowned); the closest they came was saying there were some bruises under his chin (there were). The irrefutable hit was supposed to be one medium’s mentioning of a secret machine, the “Lectroline,” Vandy was working on in the back room of a cousin’s house. But no medium ever said “Lectroline.” One medium sad he was involved with “machinery” and had “something to do with wireless or radio.”

There’s nothing to debunk. It debunks itself.

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#16: Oops. There is no #16.


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#17: George Pelham

The claim: George Pelham was one of Leonore Piper’s many “controls” who provided a long string of unknowable information to Hodgson over many years of sittings. Since Pelham was a pseudonym (and Piper never learned the man’s real name), Piper could not conceivably have researched anything about him. Pelham successfully recognized thirty people he knew when he was alive, and never once falsely recognized someone he did not know. The only person he knew when alive whom he failed to recognize was Miss Warner who was a lady when he appeared as a control but who was a child when he was alive.


The facts:

1. Pelham is a pseudonym. In 1888, Pelham sat once with Piper without revealing his real name. In 1892, he died of a fall.

2. While I do not know Pelham’s real name, even the Piper supporters admit he had been a member of ASPR.

3. Pelham appeared through Piper one month after his death and then periodically for six more years. He appeared for over 150 sitters.

4. Pelham was a close friend of Hodgson.

5. It is inconceivable that 30 people could verify that Pelham recognized them without revealing to Piper who Pelham actually was.

6. In addition, Hodgson admits that both he and Piper knew that Pelham had known Miss Warner as a child. This is not possible without Piper knowing who Pelham was.

7. Even Hodgson admits that some of Piper’s other controls were either fraudulent or unknowing extensions of her personality without real paranormal attributes (most notably Phinuit and the “Imperator Band.” Piper also claimed Johan Sebastian Bach as a control.)

8. Of all of Piper’s controls, Pelham is the only one not to speak and the only one to communicate with automatic writing. One could assume this is because Pelham was a friend of Hodgson’s and Hodgson might notice differences in speech patterns.

So the evidence boils down to Pelham recognizing people he knew when alive, but since Piper knew who he was and her primary sitter also knew him, this is no big deal.


There is nothing to debunk.

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#18: Mrs. Willett and her communications with her sons

I don’t have this article, either.


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#19: Airmen Who Would Not Die

The first claim: Captain Hinchliffe, who disappeared crossing the Atlantic in 1928, appeared via Ouija board to medium Mrs. Earl. When this proved too slow, he appeared by speaking to medium Eileen Garrett. He gave unknowable details about his death and life. Hinchliffe also warned that the R-101 was in danger of crashing if it flew in bad weather.

The second claim: First Lieutenant Irwin, Captain of the airship R-101, spoke through Eileen Garrett’s control, Uvani, after R-101 crashed in October of 1930, killing most aboard. Irwin provided unknowable technical detail about the airship and gave the cause of the crash which the Court of Inquiry later verified. (Other crew members were alleged to have also spoken through Garrett, but Irwin was primary.)

The facts:

Regarding the first claim: Hinchliffe provided no verifiable information about his death. None. He provided no information about his life that could not be deduced by a moderately skilled cold reader. He provided no specific information at all about the R-101 except that it was dangerous to fly in bad weather which had already been demonstrated in its trials; in addition, Garrett did not reveal Hinchliffe’s comments about R-101 until after the crash.

Regarding the second claim: This is blatant misreporting of the facts. Garrett (speaking as Irwin) threw out some technical sounding terms, some of which were correct, but the majority was simply a string of things that did NOT match what the Court of Inquiry found.

Garrett said R-101 was unstable, but that had already been demonstrated in its air trials.

She said the engines were too small for the load, but this was untrue and technically amateurish. The engines do not provide the lift; the hydrogen bags do.

She said the ship nearly scraped the roofs of Achy, France, which was not on any maps but which was on the final route of the airship. Regardless if Achy is on a map, R-101 did not nearly scrape the roofs of any village or town in France. It crashed into a hillside near Beauvais.

Before she mentioned any cause of the crash, she was visited by Major Villiers of the Ministry of Civil Aviation who sat with her several times and asked leading questions (check Keen’s sources for this).

She said the added middle section was entirely wrong. (The Ministry had added a third hydrogen bag after the trials). But the middle section had nothing to do with the crash.

She eventually said the reason for the crash was that the engine’s were too small and could not provide enough lift. This could hardly be more wrong. The cause of the crash, as reported by the Court of Inquiry, was that the wind tore back the outer covering on the nose of the airship, thereby letting the hydrogen out. Nothing at all to do with the engines or any other of the seemingly impressive details Garrett spouted.

Debunked.

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[#20: The Lethe case]

The claim: It is best to simply quote Keen (2003):
Leonora Piper channeled F.W.H. Myers spirit. George Dorr was testing her. He asked “Myers” what the word “Lethe” meant to him (because Myers was a classical scholar and Piper was not). Piper came out with “a considerable number of references,” many that Dorr did not know. He investigated and found them to be “references to persons, incidents, descriptions and places found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which gives an account of the mythological Hadean stream of Lethe…”

Later, Sir Oliver Lodge heard what Dorr had done and asked Mrs. Willett, who was also channeling Myers, the same question. Willett gave another long list of references, different from Piper’s. “Virtually all of these were found to derive not from Ovid but from an entirely different account connected with Aeneas’s visit to Elysium with Anchisis, his father, as described in Book Six of Virgil’s Aeneid, on which Myers had once written a scholarly commentary.”

Since neither Piper nor Willett (Coombes-Tennant) were classical scholars, this knowledge, especially across two mediums, is very strong evidence of survival.



The facts:Keen himself said that the references Piper gave weren’t specific at all but were “oblique.” In other words, they had to be interpreted to fit. And NONE of them actually said that Lethe is the stream bounding the shores of the Elysian fields.

Keen also said of the references that Willett gave that they were “allusive,” again meaning that they had to be interpreted. And NONE of the allusions were even to the work in which Lethe is found.

To sum it up: Neither medium claiming to channel Myers gave any information answering the question about Lethe. In fact, the mediums gave distinctly different answers which had to be wildly interpreted to even put them in the same ballpark as the work that mentions Lethe.

Nothing to debunk.

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That’s it for your borrowed list from Keen, unless you want to give me details on the few I didn’t address.

Let’s tally:

Out of the 19 on the list (not the 20 that Keen says there are), I have debunked 15.

On four of them I do not have the required information. If you get it, I’ll look at it.

If they are as weak as the 15 I’ve looked at, I wouldn’t hold out much hope, though. And since two of the four have Stevenson as a primary source, and since hypnotic regression (which is another of your cases) has taken a beating in the literature, I’d really not hold out much hope at all.

But it’s your dime.


ETA: Some of the formatting was lost in copying/pasting, particularly the quotation boxes. I'll not fix it, though, as I think it's decipherable as is.
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Last edited by Garrette; 2nd April 2008 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:26 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by Evilgiraffe View Post
Indeed it would be a shame to dismiss history because it is second-hand and anecdotal. However, history does not make reliable predictions of the future. Science does because of its demand for repeatable, unbiased measurements.
Though I'm certain it will be summer again next year, one should be careful of saying science makes "reliable predictions of the future".
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Old 2nd April 2008, 01:27 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
I would like to point out an objection I have to dismissing all anecdotal accounts of events based on first hand testimony:

Much of recorded history is based on first and second hand accounts which have been recorded in journals, texts, art etc. Undoubtedly much of it is not reliable, hence history is an art and not a science. However, if all first and second hand accounts are to be dismissed for being 'anecdotal' then there goes all recorded history out of the window. Many of the events of history that are not backed up by physical evidence did not happen. What a shame that would be.
The problem with anecdotal accounts, is that the more extraordinary the claim, the less reliability it should be given. That is just common sense. Almost no one takes stories of dragons, fairies or unicorns seriously, even when they are reported as first hand accounts, for the simple reason that we are all but certain that those entities don't exist based on collective experience. If a first hand account, historical or recent, is very extraordinary, then the only reasonable response is to apportion acceptance to the degree of evidence. Extraordinary claims with low quality evidence must correspondingly be viewed with a high level of suspicion.

In this case, the claim is extraordinary for the following reasons:

1) So far as we know, everything about a person's "self" is the direct result of brain processes. Hundreds of experiments show this time after time. If you alter the brain, you alter the person. If you destroy part of the brain, you destroy part of the person's identity. It stands to reason that if you destroy all of the brain, you destroy all of the person's identity.

2) Many alleged episodes of reincarnation have turned out to be false, and most of them rely on "memory regression" techniques which are known to be unreliable. The infamous Bridey Murphy case is a paradigmatic example. These "recovered memories" via hypnosis are known to be constructions of new "memories", and not recovery of actual memories at all.

Based on this, a reasonable approach would require a person to exercise skepticism of any claims of this nature. More than just an anecdotal story would be required. Actual investigation to verify the information given by someone who claims they have been reincarnated would be an absolute requirement. The person would have to be able to give specific details of their past life that could be verified, and it would have to be shown with a high degree of confidence that the person could not have obtained this information through prosaic methods.

To require this sort of verification is just using common sense and experience. We have to ask ourselves what is more likely, that somehow a "person" complete with memories survives their death and then gets implanted into the brain of another person at conception, or that people are either deceiving others or deceiving themselves. We have countless examples of the latter, and none, so far as we know, of the former.

Therefore, it is quite correct to require good evidence, no matter how interesting and marvelous the claim is. If there are good, controlled, studies of this phenomenon, they are worth examining. If there are just stories of people making claims, that may make for entertaining reading but it cannot count as evidence unless the claims have been rigorously investigated. It is simply far too common for claims of this nature to be fraudulent to take them at face value.

As far as I can tell, nothing in the above is "dogmatic".
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Old 2nd April 2008, 03:26 PM   #48
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Much of recorded history is based on first and second hand accounts which have been recorded in journals, texts, art etc. Undoubtedly much of it is not reliable, hence history is an art and not a science. However, if all first and second hand accounts are to be dismissed for being 'anecdotal' then there goes all recorded history out of the window. Many of the events of history that are not backed up by physical evidence did not happen. What a shame that would be.
You've got a very strange view of history; in fact, very little of it is based on uncorroborated firsthand accounts. Most of it is based on written records, multiple firsthand accounts, and archaeological evidence. Single-author accounts are questioned carefully: "Hang on, was Herodotus right or wrong about size of Xerxes' army? Let's look for more information."

But, yeah, there's a tradeoff. If your standard of evidence is too strict, you will fail to accept some things that are, in fact, true. If your standard of evidence is too low, you will wholeheartedly accept some things that are, in fact, false. You have to decide where to place your personal cutoff. You, Space Ed, seem to have set your cutoff way, way too low.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:01 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Being aware of them is not equivalent to guarding against them. That is something Stevenson did not do and something you seemingly are willing to let him get away with.

That said, here is the bulk of my post on another forum dealing with reincarnation. The items come from Montaguu Keen's Million Dollar Challenge to debunk his twenty most persuasive items. Some of them are Stevenson's claims; some are not.

I'm not editing it so there may be typos from the original, and it may sound a bit testy because my debate opponent was extremely testy.

The original post also had my sources, but even that is lengthy so I'm leaving it out. Here goes:

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#1: The Watseka Wonder

The claim: Mary Lurancy Vennum became episodically possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff from February 1, 1878 through May 21, 1878. During that time, Vennum—as Roff—revealed numerous intimate details about Roff, Roff’s family, and Roff’s friends that Vennum could not possibly have known.

The facts:

1. Vennum’s first “fit” came in July 1877; they recurred frequently through January of 1878.

2. Mary Roff had died at the age of 18 when Vennum was 15 months old.

3. The Roffs were long-time neighbors of the Vennums.

4. Vennum had no episodes of possession until she was seen by Dr. Stevens who came all the way from Wisconsin when Mr. Roff insisted on him because Stevens had treated Mary Roff.

5. Mr. Roff was present at the first session with Vennum and Stevens, and he was present at most of the following sessions. Mrs. Roff was present at some of them, too.

6. Vennum ‘brought forth’ numerous unidentified spirits but got no reaction. Later, when she said “Mary Roff,” Mr. Roff insisted that Mary be the one to speak.

7. Between sessions, Vennum—ostensibly as Mary Roff—spent considerable time at the Roff residence, speaking with and learning about the Roffs. The hits came only after several of these visits had occurred.

Debunked.

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#2: Uttara Huddar & Sharada

The claim: Uttara Haddar, at age 22 in 1973, manifested the spirit of Sharada, a Bengalese woman from 400 kilometers away and from the previous century. Haddar spoke Sharada’s language (Bengali) fluently though it was different from her own, and revealed remarkable knowledge about the customs of the times. She also revealed detailed knowledge about Sharada’s lineage.

The facts: Haddar had studied Bengali for years and could already speak it; it was similar to her native language. In addition, later analysis revealed that her use of it was impressive but not native or fluent. Her father had long been an admirer of Bengali revolutionaries and leaders and had studied them. He possessed books on Bengali history and culture. The only genealogical information Haddar revealed was information easily accessible to her in local records; she was not uneducated; she was a lecturer and public administrator.

Debunked.

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#3: Sumitra & Shira-Tripathy

I do not have information on this case and will not spend the money online for it. If, however, it is of the same caliber as the other cases of Stevenson’s, there is little reason to think it will withstand scrutiny.

Feel free to provide me detailed information about the case, if you want me to address it.


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#4: Jasbir Lal Jat

The claim: Like the others of Stevenson’s cases, it involves reincarnation.

The facts: Stevenson violates his own criteria for strong cases of reincarnation. These items are Stevenson’s, paraphrased from Stevenson (1975):

1. The utterances of the person must include “considerable detail.”
2. There must be a written record of utterances prior to any attempt at verification.
3. The utterances must be accurate.
4. The reincarnated person must demonstrate behavioral traits consistent with the known behavior of the reincarnee.
5. There must be birthmarks in the same location as birthmarks or wounds on the reincarnee.
6. The reincarnated person must demonstrate fluency in the language of the reincarnee.

With Jasbir:

1. The utterances are not in any detail at all, and Stevenson attributes to Jasbir utterances which—it is clear from his own text—came from other people with knowledge of who the reincarnee was supposed to be.
2. There was no written record prior to any attempt at verification.
3. The utterances were not accurate; Stevenson glosses over conflicting data.
4. There were no behavioral traits specific to just the reincarnee.
5. There were corresponding birthmarks, but there were other birthmarks, too. Stevenson fails to discuss the probability of birthmarks being in a particular spot, and he uses a very general locale to determine that birthmarks are in the right place.

I have not proven the Jasbir case to be total bunkum. I have shown that Stevenson did not make his case in the slightest.

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#5: Thompson/Gifford

The claim: After the death of Gifford, an artist, Thompson (not an artist) began painting scenes very similar to the paintings of Gifford, whom he did not know, and similar to places Gifford was known to have visited.

The facts: Thompson knew Gifford before Gifford died.

Note: This is one of Stevenson’s cases and demonstrates the unreliability of his work.

Debunked.

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#6: Past-life regression

This is another source (Tarazi) I do not have and cannot get without paying for it.

If you want to discuss it; provide me with the article.


#7: The Palm Sunday Case

The claim: A.J. Balfour loved Catherine Mary Lyttleton. Before he told her so, she died of typhus on Palm Sunday in 1876. From 1912 to 1918, medium Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold (that’s her maiden name; married name was Coombe-Tennant) channeled a spirit named Mrs. Willett who provided information about Balfour, information known only to Balfour and Lyttleton.

The facts: The sittings were mostly provided for Gerald Balfour, younger brother of A.J. In 1916, the sittings were held in A.J.’s house and A.J. attended several of them.
None of the impressive hits were made until the sittings were actually in A.J.’s house (including the silver box with Lyttleton’s locket of hair). Other hits were only found to be impressive after the fact by going back and re-interpreting what was said in earlier sittings based on the finding of the silver box. This is quite rightly called retro-fitting and indicates how vague the medium’s statements were and how they cannot be called evidence of an afterlife.

In addition, the medium’s sister-in-law was married to F.W.H. Myers, who was an active member of the SPR, so she was quite familiar with its workings. She met Balfour through the SPR and had ample opportunity to conduct research upon him.

Finally, it was Willett (as her control “Gurney”) who approached Balfour to come to the sittings, and it was Balfour’s sister, Mrs. Sidgwick, who said that Willet’s controls were obviously an extension of Willett’s personality because they uttered obvious lies and they could not respond coherently to direct questions, among other things.

Debunked.

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#8: Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard, the book and newspaper tests

The claim: Mrs. Leonard acted as medium for Mr. Thomas who reported that she provided unknowable specific information on the contents of books in other people’s homes and that she predicted unknowable specifics in as-yet-unpublished editions of the London Times.

The facts:

The answer is in Leonard’s own words from Thomas (1935):
I ‘sensed’ the appropriate spirit of the passage rather than the letters composing it.
Italics are in the original.

Another clue is that her “controls” varied; usually it was Feda, sometimes North Star, but for Mr. Thomas it was frequently Mr. Thomas’ own late father.

An additional tip-off lies in the fact that Mrs. Leonard was unable to perform unless her husband was present.

To be specific, though, here is the reading that impressed Thomas the most:
In your study there are books between the window and the fireplace, and a sort of inequality divides the shelves part of the way up. They are a peculiar set of books, and not everyone would read them. I can feel when books are of the popular sort, and those are not. … The fourth book from the left on the second shelf up is one that jumps about in time, skipping from one century to another.”
No text is given; no title; no page numbers. Her comment that it is not a popular book is easily guessable from knowing that she is dealing with an academic. Fireplaces in studies at the time were the norm, and they would never be next to the window. Hence, the logical place for a bookcase is between the fireplace and window. To this rather vague statement, Thomas replies with amazing credulity:
I recognized this description as accurate in each detail.
Wow.

In another book test with Miss Radclyffe-Hall and Lady Troutbridge as the sitters, Mrs. Leonard said that something on page 14 of “the fifth book from the left” there was something that gave a feeling of heat. She said that “heat” might mean fire or great anger.

On page 14, the ladies found the words “ardent patriot” and attributed Leonard with a great hit.

Double wow.

That part (the book tests) is debunked.

The newspaper test is next.

On May 7, 1920, Mrs. Leonard read for Mr. Thomas and told him that the May 9 edition of the London Times would mention his father’s name and the name of a place in which he had lived. This information would be in column one, one fourth of the way down.

On May 8, Thomas found—in the appropriate spot—the name John (his father’s name) and the word “Birkdale” which is what his father called the house he owned.

Impressive?

No. Do you really want me to debunk what amounts to a magician’s trick on a magic forum?

Do you also want me to point out how often people misremember what is actually said during a performance? Note that Thomas does NOT provide the actual transcript in this case. That’s a significant omission.

I would say “debunked” but there is nothing at all to debunk.

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#9: Bim’s Book Test

The claim: This is another Mrs. Leonard book test, but the sitter was not Mr. Thomas. The sitters were Lord Glenconner and his son. Mrs. Leonard—through her control Feda—communicated with the spirit of Lord Glenconner’s other son, Edward (known to the family as Bim). Bim pointed the family to page 37 of a specific book where they would find reference to beetles that ruined trees. Mention of the beetle had personal significance to the family (it’s a digression to explain why; suffice it to say that it did have the significance).

The facts:The item found was not on page 37 but was on page 36. No specific book was mentioned; instead, a location was given in such a way that it could have been a couple of books. Leonard knew the types of books the father had because she had been sitting with them before.

Most importantly, there was no specific prediction. Bim merely said “Bim now wants to send a message to his father. This book is particularly for this father. Underline that, he says…Take the title and look at page 37.”

So if it hadn’t mentioned beetles, it might simply have mentioned trees (the book was, in fact, called “Trees”) which were also important to the family. Or it could have mentioned WWI which was important to the family. Or it could have mentioned a lost son which was important to the family.

This is a classic example of attributing a specific prediction to an action which was in fact very general.

As Johnson (1953) says:
…but we are concerned here with proof of survival, and we must admit that book tests do not help us in this.


Debunked.

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#10: Harry Stockbridge

Another article I don’t have and won’t pay for. Give me details.

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#11: Bobby Newlove

The claim: Mrs. Leonard (again) sat for Mr. Thomas who had received a letter from someone neither he nor Mrs. Leonard knew, Mr. Newlove. Newlove’s son, Bobby (or Bobbie; it is spelled both ways in the literature), died a few months earlier of diphtheria at age 10. Mr. Thomas handed the re-sealed letter to Mrs. Leonard who immediately provided verifiable information regarding the circumstances of Bobby’s death including the previously unknown fact that he acquired the diphtheria from a broken pipe near which Bobby and his friend played.

The facts:The information was not provided in the first sitting. There were eleven sittings in relation to Bobby Newlove and the verifiable information came later.

Remember that Mrs. Leonard always sat in a darkened room with her back to Thomas and with her husband present. Can you, as a magician, think of no way in which she could obtain information from a resealed envelope? Information which she could then use to develop further information over the course of many days?

I can.

Debunked.

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#12: Runki’s Missing Leg

The claim: Medium Hafstein Bjornsson channeled the spirit of Runolfur Runolfsson (Runki) who provided unknowable details about how he died and also pointed the sitters to the home of an unrelated man where Runki’s missing femur would be found.

The facts: Stevenson again. Runki (Runolfur Runolfsson) drowned in 1879. His body washed ashore some time later and was dismembered by animals. His remains, minus a femur, were buried. In 1920, an unidentified femur washed ashore near the same spot. It was passed around and its whereabouts lost.

In 1937, Hafstein holds séances. A spirit comes through who refuses to identify himself and who says his leg is “missing AT SEA.” This continues for over a year.

One sitter (Niels Carlson) invites Ludvik Gudmundsson to join the séances which he does on January 1, 1939.

Runki continues to refuse to identify himself but says Ludvik can help.

Niels and Ludvik demand Runki give more info or they won’t help.

Runki stops appearing.

Several months later, Runki reappears and says he is Runolfur Runolffson. He gives details of his death (all public record in a church archive) and says his femur is in Ludvik’s house.
A neighbor of Ludvik is found who suddenly remembers that a bone was placed in one wall of Ludvik’s house by the carpenter who built it. When this wall is torn down, no bone is found.

A fish factory employee who used to live in Ludvik’s house suddenly remembers that it is another wall that has the bone.

The group finds the bone in the second wall.

The bone is never confirmed as being the one washed ashore in 1920.

The bone is never confirmed as belonging to Runolfur Runolffson who died in 1879.

Runki is unable to say which of several unmarked, jumbled graves is his so that his remains may be reinterred and the found femur checked against his other bones.

Runki went from saying the bone was in the sea to the bone was in Ludvik’s house.

Runki gave no details until he had been missing for a time sufficient to allow Hafstein to conduct secret research.

Hafstein denied visiting the church archives until his signature was found on the visitor’s book, then he remembered that he did visit it, but claimed it was for an unrelated reason.

Debunked.

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#13: Biedermann

The claim: Different mediums were able to reveal the following unknowable information about Gustav Adolf Biedermann: (1) Lived in London (2) House was called Charnwood Lodge (3) Was a German national (4) Known as Gustav though it was not an actual name for him (5) Was a Rationalist (6) Was 70 years old when he died (7) Had his own business (8) Associated with London University.

The facts: The various mediums did not provide this information as a list. There was no “proxy” sitter but instead someone who knew of Biedermann who was also unfamiliar with the techniques of cold reading. In addition, the sittings occurred over a period of time sufficient to allow research into Biedermann. Gauld claims he acquired all the public documents the mediums might have accessed to secretly gain knowledge of Biedermann, but he did not secure those documents in an unknown place; they were accessible to the members of the SPR.

This is no more complicated than watching John Edward at work.

Debunked.


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#14: Gudmundur (Gundi) Magnusson

I don’t have this article. Bear in mind it’s another Stevenson case, and we’ve seen how weak they are.


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#15: Edgar Vandy

The claim: After Edgar Vandy’s death, his brothers asked Mr. Thomas to sit as a proxy for them with five separate mediums. The mediums revealed completely unknowable information about Vandy’s death and the secret machine he was working on.

The facts: None of the mediums gave Vandy’s name; the closest they came was mentioning the letter “E.” None of the mediums described Vandy’s death (he drowned); the closest they came was saying there were some bruises under his chin (there were). The irrefutable hit was supposed to be one medium’s mentioning of a secret machine, the “Lectroline,” Vandy was working on in the back room of a cousin’s house. But no medium ever said “Lectroline.” One medium sad he was involved with “machinery” and had “something to do with wireless or radio.”

There’s nothing to debunk. It debunks itself.

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#16: Oops. There is no #16.


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#17: George Pelham

The claim: George Pelham was one of Leonore Piper’s many “controls” who provided a long string of unknowable information to Hodgson over many years of sittings. Since Pelham was a pseudonym (and Piper never learned the man’s real name), Piper could not conceivably have researched anything about him. Pelham successfully recognized thirty people he knew when he was alive, and never once falsely recognized someone he did not know. The only person he knew when alive whom he failed to recognize was Miss Warner who was a lady when he appeared as a control but who was a child when he was alive.


The facts:

1. Pelham is a pseudonym. In 1888, Pelham sat once with Piper without revealing his real name. In 1892, he died of a fall.

2. While I do not know Pelham’s real name, even the Piper supporters admit he had been a member of ASPR.

3. Pelham appeared through Piper one month after his death and then periodically for six more years. He appeared for over 150 sitters.

4. Pelham was a close friend of Hodgson.

5. It is inconceivable that 30 people could verify that Pelham recognized them without revealing to Piper who Pelham actually was.

6. In addition, Hodgson admits that both he and Piper knew that Pelham had known Miss Warner as a child. This is not possible without Piper knowing who Pelham was.

7. Even Hodgson admits that some of Piper’s other controls were either fraudulent or unknowing extensions of her personality without real paranormal attributes (most notably Phinuit and the “Imperator Band.” Piper also claimed Johan Sebastian Bach as a control.)

8. Of all of Piper’s controls, Pelham is the only one not to speak and the only one to communicate with automatic writing. One could assume this is because Pelham was a friend of Hodgson’s and Hodgson might notice differences in speech patterns.

So the evidence boils down to Pelham recognizing people he knew when alive, but since Piper knew who he was and her primary sitter also knew him, this is no big deal.


There is nothing to debunk.

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#18: Mrs. Willett and her communications with her sons

I don’t have this article, either.


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#19: Airmen Who Would Not Die

The first claim: Captain Hinchliffe, who disappeared crossing the Atlantic in 1928, appeared via Ouija board to medium Mrs. Earl. When this proved too slow, he appeared by speaking to medium Eileen Garrett. He gave unknowable details about his death and life. Hinchliffe also warned that the R-101 was in danger of crashing if it flew in bad weather.

The second claim: First Lieutenant Irwin, Captain of the airship R-101, spoke through Eileen Garrett’s control, Uvani, after R-101 crashed in October of 1930, killing most aboard. Irwin provided unknowable technical detail about the airship and gave the cause of the crash which the Court of Inquiry later verified. (Other crew members were alleged to have also spoken through Garrett, but Irwin was primary.)

The facts:

Regarding the first claim: Hinchliffe provided no verifiable information about his death. None. He provided no information about his life that could not be deduced by a moderately skilled cold reader. He provided no specific information at all about the R-101 except that it was dangerous to fly in bad weather which had already been demonstrated in its trials; in addition, Garrett did not reveal Hinchliffe’s comments about R-101 until after the crash.

Regarding the second claim: This is blatant misreporting of the facts. Garrett (speaking as Irwin) threw out some technical sounding terms, some of which were correct, but the majority was simply a string of things that did NOT match what the Court of Inquiry found.

Garrett said R-101 was unstable, but that had already been demonstrated in its air trials.

She said the engines were too small for the load, but this was untrue and technically amateurish. The engines do not provide the lift; the hydrogen bags do.

She said the ship nearly scraped the roofs of Achy, France, which was not on any maps but which was on the final route of the airship. Regardless if Achy is on a map, R-101 did not nearly scrape the roofs of any village or town in France. It crashed into a hillside near Beauvais.

Before she mentioned any cause of the crash, she was visited by Major Villiers of the Ministry of Civil Aviation who sat with her several times and asked leading questions (check Keen’s sources for this).

She said the added middle section was entirely wrong. (The Ministry had added a third hydrogen bag after the trials). But the middle section had nothing to do with the crash.

She eventually said the reason for the crash was that the engine’s were too small and could not provide enough lift. This could hardly be more wrong. The cause of the crash, as reported by the Court of Inquiry, was that the wind tore back the outer covering on the nose of the airship, thereby letting the hydrogen out. Nothing at all to do with the engines or any other of the seemingly impressive details Garrett spouted.

Debunked.

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[#20: The Lethe case]

The claim: It is best to simply quote Keen (2003):
Leonora Piper channeled F.W.H. Myers spirit. George Dorr was testing her. He asked “Myers” what the word “Lethe” meant to him (because Myers was a classical scholar and Piper was not). Piper came out with “a considerable number of references,” many that Dorr did not know. He investigated and found them to be “references to persons, incidents, descriptions and places found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which gives an account of the mythological Hadean stream of Lethe…”

Later, Sir Oliver Lodge heard what Dorr had done and asked Mrs. Willett, who was also channeling Myers, the same question. Willett gave another long list of references, different from Piper’s. “Virtually all of these were found to derive not from Ovid but from an entirely different account connected with Aeneas’s visit to Elysium with Anchisis, his father, as described in Book Six of Virgil’s Aeneid, on which Myers had once written a scholarly commentary.”

Since neither Piper nor Willett (Coombes-Tennant) were classical scholars, this knowledge, especially across two mediums, is very strong evidence of survival.



The facts:Keen himself said that the references Piper gave weren’t specific at all but were “oblique.” In other words, they had to be interpreted to fit. And NONE of them actually said that Lethe is the stream bounding the shores of the Elysian fields.

Keen also said of the references that Willett gave that they were “allusive,” again meaning that they had to be interpreted. And NONE of the allusions were even to the work in which Lethe is found.

To sum it up: Neither medium claiming to channel Myers gave any information answering the question about Lethe. In fact, the mediums gave distinctly different answers which had to be wildly interpreted to even put them in the same ballpark as the work that mentions Lethe.

Nothing to debunk.

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That’s it for your borrowed list from Keen, unless you want to give me details on the few I didn’t address.

Let’s tally:

Out of the 19 on the list (not the 20 that Keen says there are), I have debunked 15.

On four of them I do not have the required information. If you get it, I’ll look at it.

If they are as weak as the 15 I’ve looked at, I wouldn’t hold out much hope, though. And since two of the four have Stevenson as a primary source, and since hypnotic regression (which is another of your cases) has taken a beating in the literature, I’d really not hold out much hope at all.

But it’s your dime.


ETA: Some of the formatting was lost in copying/pasting, particularly the quotation boxes. I'll not fix it, though, as I think it's decipherable as is.
I've not read the 20 cases book but if the cases are like this then that is seriously poor. I cannot comment though because I have not read these accounts and cannot comment. If I'd read things about seances and that type of subjective 'evidence' I'd think it was all a pile of BS.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:14 PM   #50
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Sorry, Space_Ed, this is far too silly to be worth my time. If you think that's a dogmatic response, fine. I also dogmatically refuse to spend my time investigating the nocturnal activities of Santa Claus.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:14 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by skeptical View Post
The problem with anecdotal accounts, is that the more extraordinary the claim, the less reliability it should be given. That is just common sense. Almost no one takes stories of dragons, fairies or unicorns seriously, even when they are reported as first hand accounts, for the simple reason that we are all but certain that those entities don't exist based on collective experience. If a first hand account, historical or recent, is very extraordinary, then the only reasonable response is to apportion acceptance to the degree of evidence. Extraordinary claims with low quality evidence must correspondingly be viewed with a high level of suspicion.

In this case, the claim is extraordinary for the following reasons:

1) So far as we know, everything about a person's "self" is the direct result of brain processes. Hundreds of experiments show this time after time. If you alter the brain, you alter the person. If you destroy part of the brain, you destroy part of the person's identity. It stands to reason that if you destroy all of the brain, you destroy all of the person's identity.

2) Many alleged episodes of reincarnation have turned out to be false, and most of them rely on "memory regression" techniques which are known to be unreliable. The infamous Bridey Murphy case is a paradigmatic example. These "recovered memories" via hypnosis are known to be constructions of new "memories", and not recovery of actual memories at all.

Based on this, a reasonable approach would require a person to exercise skepticism of any claims of this nature. More than just an anecdotal story would be required. Actual investigation to verify the information given by someone who claims they have been reincarnated would be an absolute requirement. The person would have to be able to give specific details of their past life that could be verified, and it would have to be shown with a high degree of confidence that the person could not have obtained this information through prosaic methods.

To require this sort of verification is just using common sense and experience. We have to ask ourselves what is more likely, that somehow a "person" complete with memories survives their death and then gets implanted into the brain of another person at conception, or that people are either deceiving others or deceiving themselves. We have countless examples of the latter, and none, so far as we know, of the former.

Therefore, it is quite correct to require good evidence, no matter how interesting and marvelous the claim is. If there are good, controlled, studies of this phenomenon, they are worth examining. If there are just stories of people making claims, that may make for entertaining reading but it cannot count as evidence unless the claims have been rigorously investigated. It is simply far too common for claims of this nature to be fraudulent to take them at face value.

As far as I can tell, nothing in the above is "dogmatic".
No that is perfectly reasonable. Before I bought the Life Before Life book, if I had read the summary that Garette has given of the 20 cases in Ian Stevenson's book I woudn't even have given it a thought.

I am seeing a big discrepancy between how the researchers say they conduct the research and how the debunkers claim they carry out the research.

There is a HUGE difference between the apparent claims in the 20 Cases book and the Life Before Life book. If I got hold of the 20 Cases book and it was like that I'd throw it in the bin. The methods cited in my book are reasonable and aslong as what is being reported is not fictitious then these events are suggestive of reincarnation.

Sceptics are often just like religious people, they will inadvertently make things up or totally miss things staring them in the face in order to verify their claims.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:24 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by Gravy View Post
Sorry, Space_Ed, this is far too silly to be worth my time. If you think that's a dogmatic response, fine. I also dogmatically refuse to spend my time investigating the nocturnal activities of Santa Claus.

I can't say I blame you. People here have done a very good job of making the whole thing seem even more silly and unlikely than it does to begin with. I have made a very poor attempt to counter these arguments with examples of solid research and suggestive evidence. I know that to do so will take a lot of effort, reading and writing and to be honest I can't be arsed. I've got better things to do really.

The book is a well written book despite Garette's very good attempt to make Ian Stevenson look like a fool I am still sitting on the fence. I will get the 20 Cases book to see if his arguments really are as poor as that. I would be surprised if they actually are. Debunkers are often just as silly as other people, often more so.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:29 PM   #53
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Originally Posted by Gravy View Post
Sorry, Space_Ed, this is far too silly to be worth my time. If you think that's a dogmatic response, fine. I also dogmatically refuse to spend my time investigating the nocturnal activities of Santa Claus.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:30 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Being aware of them is not equivalent to guarding against them. That is something Stevenson did not do and something you seemingly are willing to let him get away with.

Some of the formatting was lost in copying/pasting, particularly the quotation boxes. I'll not fix it, though, as I think it's decipherable as is.[/font]
Brilliant!



That should have been the end of this thread and discussion.

It wasn't, of course...

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
I've not read the 20 cases book but if the cases are like this then that is seriously poor. I cannot comment though because I have not read these accounts and cannot comment. If I'd read things about seances and that type of subjective 'evidence' I'd think it was all a pile of BS.
Just a tip for, you, Ed: when replying to a comment, it makes everyone else's life a little easier if you don't just quote the entire post when it's a very long one.

Just snip most of it out so it's clear who you're replying to, but having to scroll past it all when you don't even comment on the substance of the post is both annoying and rude. It also demeans your argument when you appear to be not even bothered to show forum etiquette.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
There is a HUGE difference between the apparent claims in the 20 Cases book and the Life Before Life book. If I got hold of the 20 Cases book and it was like that I'd throw it in the bin. The methods cited in my book are reasonable and aslong as what is being reported is not fictitious then these events are suggestive of reincarnation.
Yes. How typical. The ones Garrette debunked were rubbish, but the ones you're now relying on are reliable! We have seen this tactic before once or twice.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Sceptics are often just like religious people, they will inadvertently make things up or totally miss things staring them in the face in order to verify their claims.
So they are.

Fortunately, only a tiny minority of sceptics are like that and if it's tried in here, pretty much everyone else will jump on them like the proverbial ton of bricks. Casting general aspersions like that is another tactic often used by those with cases built of straw.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 05:01 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Being aware of them is not equivalent to guarding against them.
I think that's a very important point, and it's not a problem that's restricted to reincarnation studies.

Ray Hyman spoke to this when reviewing reports of 19th century spiritualism investigations. All these really smart people went through enough trouble to establish a list of possible confounding elements... and then did nothing about it.

An example with these reincarnation case studies is the rather sweeping claim that information leakage was eliminated as a possibility. On a case by case basis, what this usually meant was that the investigator could think of a million ways for the information to have been passed back and forth, but figured these people wouldn't do that because they're too honest. So, the possibility of leakage was eliminated by mere character evaluation rather than actual apparatus.

The latter approach is scientific; the former is amateurish. We have 150 years of scientific critique of these protocols, and there's nothing much new here, which is why skeptics are cool toward any new pronouncements.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 05:12 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
I can't say I blame you. People here have done a very good job of making the whole thing seem even more silly and unlikely than it does to begin with. I have made a very poor attempt to counter these arguments with examples of solid research and suggestive evidence. I know that to do so will take a lot of effort, reading and writing and to be honest I can't be arsed. I've got better things to do really.

The book is a well written book despite Garette's very good attempt to make Ian Stevenson look like a fool I am still sitting on the fence. I will get the 20 Cases book to see if his arguments really are as poor as that. I would be surprised if they actually are. Debunkers are often just as silly as other people, often more so.
Stating that debunkers can be silly does nothing to prove reincarnation, and stating that you "can't be arsed" to present specific rebuttals to your critics doesn't encourage me to take your opinions seriously.

The book you're enamored with has not caused scientists worldwide to cry for more study into this remarkable phenomenon. When something occurs to make that happen, I'm sure we'll hear about it. I won't be holding my breath until then.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 05:15 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
haha lol yeah but can you trust Julius Caeser's account of the civil war completely? Ofcourse not lol.

Which is why historians rely on multiple independent sources.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 05:38 PM   #58
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I find it to be a good rule of thumb that the more exclamation points you use in the thread title, the more true your assertion is.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 06:13 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed
This is the 'bible' of reincarnation research (which I have not read):
I bought a copy of Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, read one chapter at random, laughed and laughed, and sold it on Amazon. The events were 40 years old and the information was obtained by interviewing the family. Of course they had not colluded on the story, neither intentionally nor subconsciously.

I'm told it wasn't one of the better chapters. Whatever.

Quote:
The book is a well written book despite Garette's very good attempt to make Ian Stevenson look like a fool I am still sitting on the fence. I will get the 20 Cases book to see if his arguments really are as poor as that.
What if you read one chapter and are really impressed with the information? Would you dare conclude from it anything as astounding as reincarnation?

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Old 2nd April 2008, 06:16 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
.#1: The Watseka Wonder[/font][/color][/u]

The claim: Mary Lurancy Vennum became episodically possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff from February 1, 1878 through May 21, 1878. During that time, Vennum—as Roff—revealed numerous intimate details about Roff, Roff’s family, and Roff’s friends that Vennum could not possibly have known.

The facts:

1. Vennum’s first “fit” came in July 1877; they recurred frequently through January of 1878.

2. Mary Roff had died at the age of 18 when Vennum was 15 months old.

3. The Roffs were long-time neighbors of the Vennums.

4. Vennum had no episodes of possession until she was seen by Dr. Stevens who came all the way from Wisconsin when Mr. Roff insisted on him because Stevens had treated Mary Roff.

5. Mr. Roff was present at the first session with Vennum and Stevens, and he was present at most of the following sessions. Mrs. Roff was present at some of them, too.

6. Vennum ‘brought forth’ numerous unidentified spirits but got no reaction. Later, when she said “Mary Roff,” Mr. Roff insisted that Mary be the one to speak.

7. Between sessions, Vennum—ostensibly as Mary Roff—spent considerable time at the Roff residence, speaking with and learning about the Roffs. The hits came only after several of these visits had occurred.

Debunked.
Not even close to being debunked:

"Family friends, including A.J. Smith, editor of the Danville Times, and the Reverend J.H. Rhea, witnessed Mary Roff, heavily blindfolded, accurately ‘read’ to them the contents of a sealed letter in the editor’s pocket, and arrange, correctly, a pile of old letters which she could not see. The amazed editor wrote a long, detailed account of the incidence in his paper . . . [After Mary's death,] Mrs. Roff and her daughter, Mrs. Minerva Alter, Mary’s sister, went to visit Lurancy. Lurancy was looking out of the window of her house at the time and when she saw them coming down the street exclaimed - ‘There comes my ma and sister Nervie!’- the latter being the name Mary used to call Mrs. Alter when a young girl . . . Hoping that it might help their daughter’s recovery, the Vennums allowed their daughter to be taken into the Roff home. When asked how long she would remain there, Lurancy answered that the angels would let her stay until some time in May. She had never been in the house before but, remarkably, seemed to know everything about it. She also spoke almost daily of particular incidents in Mary Roff’s life, she recognized family members and friends, identified her favourite clothes and belongings and recounted past event known only to the family.

"For fifteen weeks Lurancy Vennum lived as Mary Roff among her family and friends, and everything she did convinced people that she was the real Mary Roff, whom she had never known. When Mrs. Roff asked her if she recalled the family moving to Texas in 1857 (when Mary was eleven) the girl responded promptly that she remembered it well, particularly seeing the Indians along the Red River and playing with the young daughters of a family named Reeder, who were among the same travelling party. The Roffs also tested her with a velvet head dress Mary used to wear; which she recognized immediately.

"On 7 May, 1878 , ‘Mary’ told the Roff family that it would soon be time for her to leave, as Lurancy Vennum was getting better and would return. Then, on 21 May, after fourteen weeks, thus fulfilling the prophecy which ‘Mary’ had made when first taking control, she tearfully bade everyone goodbye and left. Lurancy was back for good and she asked Mrs. Roff to take her home. When she arrived she met her parents and brothers, hugging and kissing them in tears of happiness, and was completely content to be in her own surroundings again. She told her family that the past fifteen weeks seemed like a dream to her. Back in her own house Lurancy became, in the words of her mother ‘perfectly and entirely well and natural . . . Lurancy has been smarter, more intelligent, more industrious, more womanly, and more polite than before.’

"Evidence is certainly not lacking in the case of Lurancy Vennum, it attracted wide attention at the time and contemporary newspapers in and around Chicago devoted a lot of space to it. But what really happened? Was Lurancy somehow able to hoax, not only her own family and that of Mary Roff, but the investigators as well? On the other hand, If she was genuine, are the only possible explanations reincarnation or spiritual possession?

"The families involved seemed to think Lurancy was indeed possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff. Richard Hodgson, who worked with Morton Prince in the Christine Beauchamp multiple personality case at the end of the 19th century, suggested that Mary Roff could be a secondary personality of Lurancy Vennum’s. If so, we can discount reincarnation, spiritual possession or any other 'paranormal' explanation for the case. However, the problem still remains of how Lurancy obtained the detailed knowledge she possessed. The same problem applies if the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. Where and how did she obtain the detailed information about people, places and events she knew nothing about? If this mystery could be explained then we would be much closer to understanding this case of alleged 'spiritual possession'."

See http://www.mysteriouspeople.com/Lurancy_Vennum.htm
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Old 2nd April 2008, 08:33 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
There is a HUGE difference between the apparent claims in the 20 Cases book and the Life Before Life book. If I got hold of the 20 Cases book and it was like that I'd throw it in the bin. The methods cited in my book are reasonable and aslong as what is being reported is not fictitious then these events are suggestive of reincarnation.
Can you give a representative example of these methods? Specifically, what protocols were used to detect fraud, collusion, misremembering, hypnotic suggestion, delusion or other cognitive errors? What extraneous evidence was examined to verify the claims, and what methods were used to ensure that the claimant did not have access to this information prior to the claim?

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Sceptics are often just like religious people, they will inadvertently make things up or totally miss things staring them in the face in order to verify their claims.
If you have seen that, that is unfortunate. You must understand however, that claims of this type are legion, and up to this point, they are nearly universally error ridden or downright frauds. (some are of indeterminate status) Given this, and given the extraordinary nature of the claim, it is surely understandable that people would begin to grow weary of these sorts of claims that can take a large investment of time to investigate only to discover that the evidence evaporates under scrutiny.

Nevertheless, there is always the possibility that a claim may bear the burden of proof, and if there are any apparently legitimate instances a good investigator like Joe Nickell would probably be willing to give it a proper examination.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 08:37 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Hi. I just did the dramatic thread title to get your attention... buuuutt there does appear to be pretty strong evidence of reincarnation. The evidence is predominantly events where young children appear to know many facts about other places that they could not have been to and people that they could not have met in their life. They claim that they know these facts because they were someone else in a previous life. Some of these claims are backed up by correlations between birth marks and wounds on the body of the 'previous personality'.

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Old 2nd April 2008, 09:29 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by Rodney View Post
Not even close to being debunked:

"Family friends, including A.J. Smith, editor of the Danville Times, and the Reverend J.H. Rhea, witnessed Mary Roff, heavily blindfolded, accurately ‘read’ to them the contents of a sealed letter in the editor’s pocket, and arrange, correctly, a pile of old letters which she could not see. The amazed editor wrote a long, detailed account of the incidence in his paper
Any decent stage magician can do this trick. Typically, people who are not trained in detecting deceit are "amazed" that the person can perform acts while "blind", but of course the person is not blind at all. There's nothing at all supernatural about it.

Originally Posted by Rodney View Post
. . . [After Mary's death,] Mrs. Roff and her daughter, Mrs. Minerva Alter, Mary’s sister, went to visit Lurancy. Lurancy was looking out of the window of her house at the time and when she saw them coming down the street exclaimed - ‘There comes my ma and sister Nervie!’- the latter being the name Mary used to call Mrs. Alter when a young girl . . . Hoping that it might help their daughter’s recovery, the Vennums allowed their daughter to be taken into the Roff home. When asked how long she would remain there, Lurancy answered that the angels would let her stay until some time in May. She had never been in the house before but, remarkably, seemed to know everything about it. She also spoke almost daily of particular incidents in Mary Roff’s life, she recognized family members and friends, identified her favourite clothes and belongings and recounted past event known only to the family.
This sounds very suspiciously like a cold reading. Usually when these claims are made, people say "so and so knew my cousins name exactly!" or "so and so knew my mother's favorite locket!", when actually the person is simply using the John Edward method of "I see a man, he's tall, his name is something like John or Jim or something like a J or maybe an L or ..." etc, etc. and the relatives fill in the details. The relatives don't remember any of the misses, only the "hits", and then when they report them they sound quite spectacular.

Given that we know, for a fact and beyond doubt, that there are countless times when these sorts of cold reading incidents completely fool the average person, and that we have no incidents of true reincarnation that we know of, don't you think it is much more plausible to believe that this is just another incident of the former instead of the latter?

We cannot know for certain one way or the other given the age of this particular incident, but it would certainly seem more likely to be an example of cold reading than it would reincarnation.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 10:13 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by skeptical View Post
Can you give a representative example of these methods? Specifically, what protocols were used to detect fraud, collusion, misremembering, hypnotic suggestion, delusion or other cognitive errors? What extraneous evidence was examined to verify the claims, and what methods were used to ensure that the claimant did not have access to this information prior to the claim?
To add some credentials to the team: Antonia Mills is a Harvard PhD anthropologist who does research in India and the US

The Investigations:

Before we investigate cases, we have to find them. We have done so wherever we have looked for them, but cases are easiest to find in areas with a general belief in reincarnation. This includes India and Sri Lanka, where Dr Stevenson made his initial trips, along with other countries with simialr beliefs, including Thailand, Myanmar, Turkey and among the Druses in Lebanon. The geographical pattern of cases is determined to some extent by where we have people looking for them. We have been fortunate to have assistants in each of these countries looking for cases for us. They find them through a variety of means, some from occasional newspaper articles but most through word og mouth. We go where we find them. That does not mean ofcourse that cases do not occur in areas where we are not looking for them…

In fact we have found cases on all the continents except Antarctica and no one has looked for them there. In some ways looking for cases here in the US is harder than in other countries. In Thailand we sometimes seem to hit areas where we cannot stop to ask for directions without hearing about another case. In the US on the other hand we cannot just walk into a convenience store and ask if anyone knows of a child talking about a past life. That does not mean the cases are not here. When I give talks, people often speak to describing a child who reported pat-life memories.

We tend to use the same general methods when we investigate a case. We usually conduct interviews through a translator since few of the families in the international cases speak English. Though this may introduce a potential source of error in the process, the native translators are able to understand the informants with ease…

Some children only tell their parents about their memories but others tell any number of people. In the latter situation, we attempt to interview as many additional witnesses as possible. What we do not accept is hearsay testimony. If a villager says that he or she heard that the subject made a certain statement we do not accept it unless we can talk with someone who actually heard the child firsthand.

After we get as much information as possible from the subject’s side of the case, we move to the previous personality’s side. We talk to the family members to verify how closely the child’s statements matched the life of the previous personality. We also find out their impressions of their first meeting with the child. Since the child is often said to recognize members of the previous personality’s family or belongings at this meeting we want to get testimony of both families about it.



The above is a few extracts of the section on their methodology. They have over 2,500 cases.



Explanations they consider:

Fraud
Fantasy
Knowledge acquired through normal means
Faulty memory by informants
Genetic memory

Extrasensory perception
Possession
Reincarnation


Typical Case:

…Eventually when he was still 3 years old his grandmother did just that. She and Chanai took a bus to a town near Khao Phra which was fifteen miles from their home village. After the two of them got off the bus, Chanai led the way to a house where he said his parents lived. The house belonged to an elderly couple whose son, Bua Kai Lawnak, had been a teacher who was murdered five years before Chanai was born. Once there, Chanai identified Bua Kai’s parents, who were there with a number of other family members, as his own. They were impressed enough by his statements and his birhtmarksto invite him to return a short time later. When he did, they tested him by asking him to pick out Bua Kai’s belongings from others, and he was able to do that. He recognized one of Bua Kai’s daughters and asked for the other one by name.

Next paragraph goes to say his birthmarks matched with the wounds of the deceased.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 10:19 PM   #65
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This story is all well and good on its own but you shouldn't take it seriously. It is the NUMBER of claims like this where children appear to know facts that they logically shouldn't which leads researchers to thinking that something is going on.

There is loads more stuff in the book but theres a few snippets. I recommend that you buy it.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 10:25 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
A good start is the wikipedia article (note the scientific research section):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnation
What exactly makes this research "scientific"? It probably isn't even close. If I wasn't so lazy I'd rewrite that part of the article myself.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 10:57 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Before we investigate cases, we have to find them. We have done so wherever we have looked for them, but cases are easiest to find in areas with a general belief in reincarnation.

Which indicates that this is a cultural bias rather than a natural phenomenon. This has all been addressed in my previous post, as well as the book I linked. Did you have any comment on that?
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Old 3rd April 2008, 12:36 AM   #68
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Mods.... 68 posts and I ain't seen no Science, Mathematics, Medicine nor Technology. This ought to be with the other woo in General Skepticism. (IMHO)
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Old 3rd April 2008, 01:18 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by Foolmewunz View Post
Mods.... 68 posts and I ain't seen no Science, Mathematics, Medicine nor Technology. This ought to be with the other woo in General Skepticism. (IMHO)
Good call.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 01:32 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by Hokulele View Post
Which indicates that this is a cultural bias rather than a natural phenomenon.
An unwarranted assumption.
In a culture where reincarnation is more accepted then a child's reports to its family of memories of a previous life are clearly going to be taken more seriously, passed around the family, friends, neighbours, and are more likely to be memorised/recorded than in a culture where reincarnation is routinely dismissed.
Here in the west if a child reports such things the response is most likely to be of the order of a kind but disbelieving "Sure, honey, of course you did." And end of story.

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Old 3rd April 2008, 06:27 AM   #71
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Well, none of Garrette's points disagrees with any of the text that you quote from the Mysterious People page.
Please indicate which part of Garrette's argument is unsound, or, alternatively, which part of the Mysterious People account supports your argument.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney View Post
Not even close to being debunked:
Originally Posted by Garrette
.#1: The Watseka Wonder
The claim: Mary Lurancy Vennum became episodically possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff from February 1, 1878 through May 21, 1878. During that time, Vennum—as Roff—revealed numerous intimate details about Roff, Roff’s family, and Roff’s friends that Vennum could not possibly have known.
The facts:
1. Vennum’s first “fit” came in July 1877; they recurred frequently through January of 1878.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
2. Mary Roff had died at the age of 18 when Vennum was 15 months old.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
3. The Roffs were long-time neighbors of the Vennums.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
4. Vennum had no episodes of possession until she was seen by Dr. Stevens who came all the way from Wisconsin when Mr. Roff insisted on him because Stevens had treated Mary Roff.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
5. Mr. Roff was present at the first session with Vennum and Stevens, and he was present at most of the following sessions. Mrs. Roff was present at some of them, too.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
6. Vennum ‘brought forth’ numerous unidentified spirits but got no reaction. Later, when she said “Mary Roff,” Mr. Roff insisted that Mary be the one to speak.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
7. Between sessions, Vennum—ostensibly as Mary Roff—spent considerable time at the Roff residence, speaking with and learning about the Roffs. The hits came only after several of these visits had occurred.
Mysterious people account agrees.
Quote:
Quote:
Debunked.
Not even close to being debunked:
Since the passages you quote agree with Garrette's account - that the girl in question didn't relate her "possession" to the other girl until after she met Stevens AND the girl's family, what part of that webpage, apart from argument by incredulity, debunks Garrette's debunk?
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Old 3rd April 2008, 06:35 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by plumjam View Post
An unwarranted assumption.
In a culture where reincarnation is more accepted then a child's reports to its family of memories of a previous life are clearly going to be taken more seriously, passed around the family, friends, neighbours, and are more likely to be memorised/recorded than in a culture where reincarnation is routinely dismissed.
Here in the west if a child reports such things the response is most likely to be of the order of a kind but disbelieving "Sure, honey, of course you did." And end of story.
It is unwarranted to assume that children in all cultures spontaneously report past life experiences. It strikes me as odd just how often the "reincarnation" is a poor child who was someone relatively wealthier and living nearby in his/her past life.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 06:44 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by Rodney View Post
Not even close to being debunked:

---snip---
I recommend you take Skeptical's response to heart, but if you found it insufficient, then rather than playing whack-a-reincarnee the same way we used to play whack-a-psychic detective, let's make the same agreement we informally did regarding psychics:

You pick the one single case you feel is the strongest evidence for reincarnation. You start a thread for it in the appropriate sub-forum. You lay out your claims, addressing the specific aspects you find most convincing. You provide sources. (I am familiar with the link you provided; at least I was when I wrote the original post; it is very good at making claims and even better at missing mundane explanations).

Heck, Rodney, I'll even pledge a willingness to spend a few dollars online if necessary to acquire an otherwise inaccessible source document. (But only a few...)

After you have done that, I'll be happy to dig into your case whether it is the Watseka Wonder or not.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 06:58 AM   #74
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Hokulele's comment about cultural bias seems to be right on, but I'd be inclined to go further than that. These cases seem to all come from areas where Hinduism is the prominent religion, and belief in reincarnation is not just a minor part of Hindu beliefs, it's essential to the entire system.
We have people here who are indoctrinated into a belief in reincarnation for thousands of years (I don't really know when Hindu beliefs originated) or so.

In "Spook-Science tackles the afterlife", author Mary Roach interviews an Indian scientist who has been researching stories of this sort for years. He wants desperately to believe, rather like Mulder. However, his scientific training has led him to reject all the anecdotes he has studied.

http://www.amazon.com/Spook-Science-...7230924&sr=8-1
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Old 3rd April 2008, 07:07 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Brilliant!
Thanks.


Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Before I bought the Life Before Life book, if I had read the summary that Garette has given of the 20 cases in Ian Stevenson's book I woudn't even have given it a thought.
Those cases primarily are not from Stevenson. They are Montagu Keen's list of supposed best cases/best evidence. Some of Stevenson's cases just happen to make the list.


Originally Posted by Space_Ed
I am seeing a big discrepancy between how the researchers say they conduct the research and how the debunkers claim they carry out the research.
This is quite common. Your next step to resolve the discrepancy is looking at the actual source documents (or as close as you can get) to see who is correct (or closer to it).

In my experience, though, even the claims of methodology are different, and the difference should give you a big clue:

Paranormal Investigator: We took adequate precautions, but I am conveniently not providing the details.

Skeptic: The actions you took were specifically A, B, and C. A was fine; B was inadequate to prevent X, and your failure to also do D and E meant that Y could be the explanation for the effect.

If you don't give a lot more credence to the skeptic statement, then there is some serious learning to do.


Originally Posted by Space-Ed
There is a HUGE difference between the apparent claims in the 20 Cases book and the Life Before Life book. If I got hold of the 20 Cases book and it was like that I'd throw it in the bin. The methods cited in my book are reasonable and aslong as what is being reported is not fictitious then these events are suggestive of reincarnation.
And there's the issue. So far, the absolute extent of your case is this:

A second hand source without providing relevant details says some cases were convincing of reincarnation.

The only "debunking" a second hand source requires is pointing out that it's a second hand source that doesn't provide relevant details.


Originally Posted by Space-Ed
Sceptics are often just like religious people, they will inadvertently make things up or totally miss things staring them in the face in order to verify their claims.
Besides what has already been said to address this, would you find it offensive if I said

Believers are often just like idiots. They will ignore the most basic precepts of good research and pretend that alternate explanations do not exist despite being informed about them several times.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
The book is a well written book despite Garette's very good attempt to make Ian Stevenson look like a fool...
I have done nothing of the sort. I imagine I would enjoy Mr. Stevenson's company. He and Montague Keen are two believers who strike me as being quite sincere without any conscious attempt to defraud or to act the charlatan. They also strike me as reasonably intelligent and probably fine hosts and dinner companions. But mostly they strike me as people who have let their desire for belief in their respective areas overcome their otherwise discerning faculties. It is not making them "look like a fool" to point out the considerable shortcomings in their research.


Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
To add some credentials to the team: ---snip---
Credentials are a lovely thing, but they do not a substitute for proper research and methodology make.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 08:20 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
To add some credentials to the team: Antonia Mills is a Harvard PhD anthropologist who does research in India and the US
Just a quick point, it is all well and good to have credentials in Anthropolgy, but that doesn't by itself mean that the person is a skilled investigator of alleged paranormal phenomenon. The case of the "Alpha kids" is a paradigmatic example of PhD's being fooled by simple tricks. That doesn't mean this person IS being fooled, just that having a particular degree doesn't really amount to much. One should not be too impressed by credentials when investigating these sorts of claims because _anyone_ can be fooled, and academics more often than not think they can't be, which is obviously a problem.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
The Investigations:

Before we investigate cases, we have to find them. We have done so wherever we have looked for them, but cases are easiest to find in areas with a general belief in reincarnation. This includes India and Sri Lanka, where Dr Stevenson made his initial trips, along with other countries with simialr beliefs, including Thailand, Myanmar, Turkey and among the Druses in Lebanon
Right off the bat, this is a huge red flag for an obvious reason. This sounds very similar to the fact that only predominantly Roman Catholic areas have visions of the virgin Mary. A reasonable person would now be very suspicious.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
<some snipped for brevity of post>

Some children only tell their parents about their memories but others tell any number of people. In the latter situation, we attempt to interview as many additional witnesses as possible. What we do not accept is hearsay testimony. If a villager says that he or she heard that the subject made a certain statement we do not accept it unless we can talk with someone who actually heard the child firsthand.
Just a nit, but strictly speaking, if someone tells you what they heard someone else say, that is hearsay in the legal definition of the word.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
After we get as much information as possible from the subject’s side of the case, we move to the previous personality’s side. We talk to the family members to verify how closely the child’s statements matched the life of the previous personality. We also find out their impressions of their first meeting with the child. Since the child is often said to recognize members of the previous personality’s family or belongings at this meeting we want to get testimony of both families about it.
And here is the critical point: How do they eliminate collusion, intentional or otherwise? How do they verify that the statements made by the people are not just groups examples of a cold reading? What controls have they done? All of this is the most critical part. Simply interviewing people is the tip of the iceberg, especially when you know going in the belief in reincarnation is ubiquitous among the people you are interviewing.

Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Explanations they consider:

Fraud
Fantasy
Knowledge acquired through normal means
Faulty memory by informants
Genetic memory

Extrasensory perception
Possession
Reincarnation
And what, exactly, is their methodology? In what cases did they determine fraud, compared to the number that they determined reincarnation? Surely some large percentage of the cases were fraudulent since we know for a fact that many carefully investigated cases are. If their methodology is sound, they should have a large number of frauds, as well as the ones they consider legitimate. What I am looking for is what specific protocols they use to ferret out the frauds from the "legitimate", that needs to be spelled out in detail.


Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Typical Case:

…Eventually when he was still 3 years old his grandmother did just that. She and Chanai took a bus to a town near Khao Phra which was fifteen miles from their home village. After the two of them got off the bus, Chanai led the way to a house where he said his parents lived. The house belonged to an elderly couple whose son, Bua Kai Lawnak, had been a teacher who was murdered five years before Chanai was born. Once there, Chanai identified Bua Kai’s parents, who were there with a number of other family members, as his own. They were impressed enough by his statements and his birhtmarksto invite him to return a short time later. When he did, they tested him by asking him to pick out Bua Kai’s belongings from others, and he was able to do that. He recognized one of Bua Kai’s daughters and asked for the other one by name.
This is just anecdotes exactly the same that you get from family members after a cold reading. Watch interviews with people who think that John Edward can really talk to dead people, they tell nearly identical stories of all the "hits" he makes that cannot be chance. Then, you watch or read an account of an unedited performance and you find out he is wrong about 90% of the time, and just keeps fishing for information and getting feedback from the family, but only the hits are remembered. This is very common in these types of claims.

They need to give MUCH more detail about how the eliminate frauds and cold reading techniques. They need to provide examples of fraud detection and controls they use. This is not nearly enough information.


Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
Next paragraph goes to say his birthmarks matched with the wounds of the deceased.
Do they describe the wounds and the birthmarks exactly? Do they have pictures to verify? All of this is simply anecdotal claims, made by people in cultures that have an overwhelming belief in reincarnation. What is needed are details not of the claims, but of the procedures and evidence that _support_ these claims. Again, they should be able to show large numbers of cases where they detected fraud, since undoubtedly _some_ of the cases are fraudulent.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 08:48 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by Foolmewunz View Post
Mods.... 68 posts and I ain't seen no Science, Mathematics, Medicine nor Technology. This ought to be with the other woo in General Skepticism. (IMHO)
I agree.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 08:59 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by plumjam View Post
Using the "it's only anecdotal" strategy here seems a bit bizarre.
How could you do a non-anecdotal experiment in this area?
Of it's nature the data in this area has to be anecdotal.
You raise a good point. However, I utterly disagree with you. I can think of several ways to come up with real evidence (not anecdotal observations) if reincarnation were a fact.

First, I think reincarnation advocates have the cart before the horse. They have an idea and are looking to support it, rather than following observations and looking at all the available evidence.

If reincarnation arguments aren't merely apologetics (where they start with a belief, then try to build a case to support that position), then the only "phenomenon" the theory of reincarnation is trying to explain are these children's stories, which are collected as anecdotes.

As PlumJam correctly points out, that's really the only way these stories would ever come to our attention. Surely we couldn't take a given number of children and isolate them from confounding influences until they're old enough to talk and then see what sort of past life memories they've got--and with what frequency etc. So there's no way to know how much of these stories were "fixed" memories (supplied by prompting from the family, confabulation, outright fabrication, etc.)

So, if the question is how best to explain these stories, I've already pointed out that Occam's Razor strongly prefers the mundane explanations. But, that's not evidence, that's just pointing out that if you did find evidence of reincarnation, you'd have to overhaul an awful lot of what we know about neuroscience, memory, language, etc.

Back to PJ's question, "How could you do a non-anecdotal experiment in this area?"

One way is to test one of these kids. You'd have to come up with several bits of information that are not likely to be known by the kid or the family (or the neighborhood) etc. Then, ask the kid questions based on those bits of information. If he can remember some details about a past life, we should expect him to remember others. The problem with anecdotes is that much is made of a "hit" with no consideration of a great many "misses".

I know there are stories of similar tests being done with reincarnations of holy men (where the kid is supposed to pick out possessions that belonged to the deceased llama or whatever), but those can hardly said to be done in controlled circumstances. (I tend to doubt the veracity of their retelling since those who profess them have pretty strongly vested interests in proving that the kid is the reincarnation.) At least they're on the right track. It is most certainly possible to come up with non-anecdotal tests of the kids' stories.

Another line of non-anecdotal evidence is related to the stuff I brought up earlier. If there's a disembodied something that holds memories of past life, we should expect some brain structure to interact with that. If reincarnation were real, we could presumably find such structures and maybe even detect and measure that disembodied something.

Granted, absence of this evidence doesn't prove that the thing doesn't exist, but this is a type of non-anecdotal evidence that would be possible. This is the sort of thing it would take for me to reconsider my position. You have to admit that nothing exists except anecdotal evidence.

Memory is very plastic, and that's really all we're dealing with here. There are no controls on the information the kid might have been exposed to from other sources.

The mundane explanation that I accept (in the absence of any other evidence) is that in a culture where a lot of people take reincarnation as an assumed fact, you have a toddler doing some random behavior. Someone in the family or community thinks that behavior is similar to a behavior or mannerism of someone recently deceased, and starts talking about the kid being the reincarnation of that person. From there, everyone begins collecting (or inventing) proof of that. (No one considers the great many behaviors the kid does that look NOTHING like the supposed previous life.) The accounts of what the child actually did or said get lost in the developing story that gets spread around. At the same time, the kid is pretty much taught to "remember" (it's very easy to implant false memories) events from that person's life.

With this explanation, no disembodied thing that can somehow store memories is required. No brain structures that somehow upload and download these memories (or otherwise interact with the disembodied thing) are required. There are no conflicts with what is known about memory, language, brain function or neuroscience in general. It's much more parsimonious.

So if you weigh ALL the evidence, it points to the mundane explanation. As a skeptic, that's the one I provisionally accept.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 09:13 AM   #79
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Originally Posted by Space_Ed View Post
I would like to point out that I don't 'believe' in reincarnation either, it appears to be the rational conclusion from their 40 years of research.
A few years ago I wrote an article for "Skeptic Report" called "Bottomless Can of Worms". That's what you open when you posit a supernatural explanation for something.

Even if you rule out all naturalistic explanations for kids remembering things they shouldn't remember -- how do you narrow down the supernatural explanations to JUST reincarnation? Why can't it be something else? For instance:

1. Why can't the kid be channeling the spirit of the dead person?
2. Why can't the kid be POSSESSED by the spirit of the dead person?
3. Why can't the kid be possessed by SATAN, who has intimate knowledge of the dead person?
4. Why can't the kid be under the influence of aliens, who have dissected the dead person and so have access to his memories?

And so on, and so on, and so on...

This list only includes aspects of the paranormal that are in the cultural consciousness. Imagine the weird explanations you could come up with if you posit any possible paranormal explanation.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 09:47 AM   #80
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
Well, none of Garrette's points disagrees with any of the text that you quote from the Mysterious People page.
See below.

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
Please indicate which part of Garrette's argument is unsound, or, alternatively, which part of the Mysterious People account supports your argument.
I would be delighted.

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
3. The Roffs were long-time neighbors of the Vennums.

Mysterious people account agrees.
No, they were never neighbors and did not know each other until the Roffs "heard about the [Lurancy Vennum] case and were reminded of their own daughter's similar problems."

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
4. Vennum had no episodes of possession until she was seen by Dr. Stevens who came all the way from Wisconsin when Mr. Roff insisted on him because Stevens had treated Mary Roff.

Mysterious people account agrees.
No, the account makes clear that Dr. Stevens saw Lurancy only after she had many episodes of possession. Further, the account says nothing about Dr. Stevens having treated Mary Roff. If he did, so what?

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
5. Mr. Roff was present at the first session with Vennum and Stevens, and he was present at most of the following sessions. Mrs. Roff was present at some of them, too.

Mysterious people account agrees.
The account is silent on this issue, but -- in any event -- how does this debunk the story?

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
6. Vennum ‘brought forth’ numerous unidentified spirits but got no reaction. Later, when she said “Mary Roff,” Mr. Roff insisted that Mary be the one to speak.

Mysterious people account agrees.
Again, the account is silent on this issue, and again, how does this debunk the story?

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
7. Between sessions, Vennum—ostensibly as Mary Roff—spent considerable time at the Roff residence, speaking with and learning about the Roffs. The hits came only after several of these visits had occurred.

Mysterious people account agrees.
No, the account states that Lurancy "had never been in the [Roff] house before but, remarkably, seemed to know everything about it."

Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
Since the passages you quote agree with Garrette's account - that the girl in question didn't relate her "possession" to the other girl until after she met Stevens AND the girl's family, what part of that webpage, apart from argument by incredulity, debunks Garrette's debunk?
Garrette's "debunk" is a combination of speculation and misstatements of facts. He has done nothing to discredit the story.
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