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There was some follow-up in the JSPR (I believe in the file you cite) where there were replies to Munves and Munves' response.

In Munves' response, it is notable that that he says he went into the records of Mrs. Piper as a believer in Mrs. Piper's touted abilities, but got his doubts only after looking into them. The implication is that Hodgson's account of Mrs. Piper's abilities conflicted with, or at least greatly overstated, what the records themselves supported. And I think that Munves provides ample evidence that Hodgson ignored evidence that didn't support his preconceived conclusion that Piper could communicate with the dead, for example in ignoring George Pellew's own family members' negative reactions to the mediumistic messages (i.e., what Piper said didn't ring true as coming from GP to those who knew GP best).

"The implication is that Hodgson's account of Mrs. Piper's abilities conflicted with, or at least greatly overstated, what the records themselves supported."

That's certainly what Munves concluded - on the basis of the flimsy arguments I summarized in my post.

The follow-up letter from Ian Stevenson and Munves' reply don't add much to the discussion, but for those who are interested, both can be found on pages 286-7 and 471 of the Word document linked in the main post(pagination of the Word document, not the original publications).

I mistakenly wrote that the download was a PDF file; actually it's a Word "doc" file, about 4.6 MB.

I should have added that after reading Keith's comment, I put in a reference to the follow-up correspondence in the first paragraph of the main post.

Hi, Prescott

You showed bad and good things in Munve's article, and so I think you wrote a great post. But I think you should publish it also in JSPR, or at least try to contact Munves (but I think both actions it would be the right thing to do), because I think it's important to know his reactions to critics, and to know if he will change his mind or not, or even if he will add something new to the discussion.

Mr. Keith Augustine, I think it's wonderful to have you back in Prescott's blog. I think your comments and articles very importants. Please, appear more times.

Best wishes,
Vitor

Hi MP,

A good summary of the Munves article I think. There is some great research in there by Munves to unearth some important facets. Overall though I was struck by the same impression of the skeptical approach of isolating incidences to create doubt, when the case as a whole - and there's a lot of evidence/documentation to integrate - is more convincing and difficult to pull down. As with NDEs, no explanation seems to fit the entire collection of reports.

Hello all,

I will start by saying that I really enjoy the blog. In reading about these issues (the paranormal et al) everything is always so polarized: the hardcore skeptics on the one side, and the hardcore believers on the other--it's very difficult to come into this situation and form one's own opinion (which I'm trying to do) because each side takes the facts and interprets them to fit their worldview. Blogs like yours add some perspective by approaching the issue logically and weighing both sides.

My main concern with the Piper case (which I have read on fairly intensely) is simply the time frame. When we look to verify these claims 100+ years after the fact, it just becomes impossible to know. So in this respect I see these historical cases as important for providing background and context with regard to the scientific study of survival...but I have the tendency to cringe when I see them presented as "proof" or "evidence" for the existence of an afterlife. Over so many years, there are simply many details that are difficult to verify, etc.

My question then would be more general--why must our inquiry rest on 100 year old findings? Is it simply that the taboos of mainstream science have become so powerful that the sort of studies done by those scientists (Lodge, Hodgson, James) would be impossible now?

It seems to me that when we look at these experiments and experiences from 100 years ago we see far more in the way of 'proofs' and 'evidence' than we might from modern studies...and this has been troubling me.

Hi, Michael

I will try to answer your question "why must our inquiry rest on 100 year old findings?Is it simply that the taboos of mainstream science have become so powerful that the sort of studies done by those scientists (Lodge, Hodgson, James) would be impossible now?"

The sort of studies done by those scientists (Lodge, Hodgson, James) ARE impossible now, but for many completly different reasons:

01. In that time (1890-1950) the tests and saveguards were much rigorous than now. The scientists were not limited to ethical questions like today. For example:

a) Piper was submitted to a very painful treatment without knowing this while she was in trance. A scientist who try to do this today would go to prison. These tests can't be replicated today.

b) Piper and her family were followed by detectives and her correspondence was violated. Again, today it would not be ethical to replicate this.

2) In that time there was no computer, no internet, no celular, any kind of eletronic invention that could help mediums to obtain information. Today it's a entirely different world. We can't turn back the time.

Best wishes.

“It seems to me that when we look at these experiments and experiences from 100 years ago we see far more in the way of 'proofs' and 'evidence' than we might from modern studies...and this has been troubling me.”

Those were different times and people rather than being able to watch TV participated in home circles and this provided the discovery of many more mediums and some of those mediums turned out to be very effective at reaching the other side.

Today’s mediums appear to be much more interested in material gain than some of the great mediums from the past. Check out John Sloan who never asked for money and he was one of the greatest if not thee greatest trance medium that we know of.

“but I have the tendency to cringe when I see them presented as "proof" or "evidence" for the existence of an afterlife.”

From my point of view there is lots of evidence for the existence of an afterlife but absolute proof is a different story. Of course there is no absolute proof that there is no life after death depending of course on our operational definition of proof.

I would never state that I have discovered absolute proof with my research but I would state that the evidence for an afterlife is statistically overwhelming if one cares to look deeply for it with something that even approaches an open mind.

One of my biggest discoveries has been don’t look to the atheist or the religious fundamentalists for that open mind. I have found little difference in the mindset of the atheist and the religious fundamentalist. This came as a surprise to me because when I started this research almost two decades ago I thought the atheist would be the least bias because they would not be hindered by religious dogma.

I find the human mind interesting as the atheist and the religious fundamentalist really don’t care all that much for one another often even demonstrating open hostility and it is my observation they are more alike than different in their ability to be bias and closed minded and self righteous.

Both the atheist and the religious fundamentalist have made their god in their image. I.e. the intellect of their ego. I also suspect we all have done this to some degree.

"--it's very difficult to come into this situation and form one's own opinion (which I'm trying to do) because each side takes the facts and interprets them to fit their worldview."

Michael (not Michael P) assumes that Hodgson, Lodge, et al were not objective examiners, i.e., they had a worldview that included survival and they were out to make things meet their worldview. It is the same reasoning that Dr. Gary Schwartz mentions when he points out that every time a scientists finds something in favor of survival, the skeptical media assumes they must find a skeptic to counter it. They forget that the scientist theoretcially started as a skeptic and then came to a conclusion. The public, therefore, sees it as a draw in the end, even though the skeptic is only vaguely familiar with the study while the objective scientist, who started as a skeptic, is very familiar with the facts. Is it any wonder that we can't invoke the legal doctrine of Res Judicata (case decided and closed) on those cases of old? William explains why such investigations would be difficult today, but let's assume that they were carried. Why should people 100 years from now accept the findings of today's researchers? At what point do you say "Res Judicata"?

Anyone who is really familiar with Hodgson knows that he set out to debunk Mrs. Piper.

As a clarification, I wasn't assuming that Hodgson, Lodge, et al weren't objective. Quite the opposite, in fact--what makes them so fascinating to me is the way in which their skeptical minds were convinced of the existence of the phenomenon. I find this impressive, and a testament to the work they did.

My point was that (at least at first) it was hard to find outlets on the web that were looking at these concepts in a critical fashion, and not just dismissing or embracing them blindly--and this blog, and others like it, are refreshing to see.

Michael Tymn wrote:

"Anyone who is really familiar with Hodgson knows that he set out to debunk Mrs. Piper. "

Hi Mike,

I think that's an important point, but it's also my feeling that he was convinced fairly early on by his sittings in the first year (cousin Fred, Jessie etc). And it's easy to see why, the details given are astounding, such as Jessie's eye marking. But given that, we should be careful in saying that Hodgson was always skeptical - I think Munves points out some laxness in Hodgson's later approach and thinking, which Mrs Sidgwick pointed out herself in her own analyses of the sittings decades previous to Munves. Carrington says in his writings that at a later point Hodgson was 'channeling' Imperator et al in his own room himself, which one would think would make for a clouded objectivity!

So I agree that Hodgson *set out* to debunk Mrs. Piper. I just urge caution in applying that thinking to all of the next 18 years or so of his investigation.

Great post and great comments. My small contribution is this: It is also important to keep in mind that William James was certainly the most brilliant American thinker of his time, and may have also been the most significant American mind ever.

Not that this means he cannot have been wrong, but anyone who has read James's work understands the penetration, the integrity and the constant self-examination in his work. Far from being gullible, he seems to me at times to have bent over backwards to find something other than survival as the explanation for the information obtained through the best mediums.

When Michael above states his concern about 100 year old testimony, I sympathize, But what we fail to grasp is that for a long period of time some of the greatest minds of the age grappled with the questions we discuss here. They attacked these questions with energy and integrity. There simply is no equivalent today (with all do respect to today's brilliant researchers.)

And among those giants, James was probably the greatest mind. It will take a substantial burden of proof to get us to discount his testimony and insights.

Michael,

It's a small thing, but could you please alter your screen name when you post, perhaps by including a last name or some other identifying detail? There are several Michaels who comment here, including me. It gets confusing.

Thanks.

"So I agree that Hodgson *set out* to debunk Mrs. Piper. I just urge caution in applying that thinking to all of the next 18 years or so of his investigation."

Greg,

I agree with you, but should we expect such researchers to "sit on the fence" forever, i.e., never take a stand? We can see that with many of the NDE researchers today. Raymond Moody is now a fence sitter, at least in public and Bruce Greyson seems to be the same. No one is saying that they have to go the roof tops and yell, "I am a believer." However, as Neal Grossman has said, all they have to do is say, "The evidence strongly suggests survival," or something to that effect. However, they won't even do that. Greyson says that he is not interested in the survival question, only in how NDE research helps people live better lives today. I suspect it is just his way of protecting himself. God forbid should the university hierarchy think he is investigating such superstitious things as life after death.

Unfortunately, with people like Sir Oliver Lodge, once they came out and expressed a conviction relative to survival, they were labeled "propagandists" rather than scientific ressearchers.

Are we saying that if a researcher at some point begins to believe in the phenomena that he should disqualify himself from further research? Should Hodgson have disqualified himself from further research once he became a believer in Mrs Piper?


"Hodgson was convinced fairly early on by his sittings in the first year (cousin Fred, Jessie..."

Greg,

An additional thought to the one above: Hodgson was not convinced of survival after that first sitting with Piper. He continued to believe in the the whole "secondary personality," telepathy, teloteropathy, cosmic soul ball of wax. It wasn't until George Pellew started communicating, some five years after his first sitting with Piper, that he accepted the spirit hypothesis. So Hodgson may have been converted to a belief that Piper was not a charlatan early on, but it was some time before he accepted the spirit hypothesis.

But back to the objectivity thing brought up by Michael. If some laboratory decides to undertake a study to determine if cigarette smoking causes cancer, must they employ only researchers who have no opinion or thoughts on the subject? Should they employ an equal number of smokers and non-smokers as researchers to be sure results aren't biased? If the early results suggest there is a positive correlation between smoking and lung cancer are the researchers then biased as they attempt to gather more data to fully confirm the early results? It sure seems that is what some people are suggesting relative to survival research.

Then when all the results are in and strongly suggest that there is a positive correlation between the two, the smoker then points out that his 102-year-old grandmother smoked a pack a day for 80 years and is still going strong with no signs of cancer. That's the type of argument we seem to get by pseudoskeptics in the survival issue.

Hi Mike (Tymn),

Excellent points and well made. I agree with your sentiments - I was just pointing out a minor quibble, that "Hodgson was out to debunk Mrs Piper" should not be a blanket statement made to the entire testing period.

This was the comment that vitor was replying to:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2009/05/from-the-files-touching-heaven.html?cid=6a00d83451574c69e2011570b969f2970b#comment-6a00d83451574c69e2011570b969f2970b

Why does the controversy generates so much more discussion, even among believers, than Hodgson's results?

I've read a lot about the evidence for the afterlife and I've never seen this mentioned before: That Hodgson came to believe in survival because characteristics of the communicaton varied with the communicators not the sitters. This to me seems like a very important result that has been hidden for 100 years. It is significant because it is a very strong rebuttal not just to the telepathy hypothesis which Hodgson used it against but also against super-psi which he had not even begun to consider. The original comment has a link to my blog post where I discuss the matter in more detail. There are also links to Hodgson's report in the PSPR at google books.

Excellent post Michael.

I fully agree with your conclusion: "I find Munves' article, as whole, tendentious and unconvincing".

I'd add that that kind of criticisms, instead of refuting the case, may consolidate it in the eyes of a neutral observer. If that's all the critic got to debunk the case, then it offers us another reason to think that, possibbly, the case is indeed good.

Mr. Keith Augustine, I think it's wonderful to have you back in Prescott's blog. I think your comments and articles very importants. Please, appear more times

Although I strongly disagree with most of Keith's arguments and articles, I fully endorse Vitor's comment about being good the participation of Keith in this blog.

I'd like to see Keith posting here more oftenly.

"I'd like to see Keith posting here more oftenly."

Not sure why. His views on this topic are well known and have been refuted by Chris Carter.

http://www.survivalafterdeath.org.uk/articles/carter/augustine.htm

Still, if you like the record, I'm sure he can keep playing it for you.

Barbara: I agree theoretically, the standing of his arguments were lowered by Carter but questioning our ideas, thoughts, conclusions and interpretations is always needed, surely? I - for one - believe Mrs Piper's abilities were real and the survival hypothesis is valid but I'm glad Mr Augustine brought up the question of the reaction of G.P.'s relatives.

One of your best posts here, Michael Prescott. Hats off.

The nature of reasonable presumptions is that you don’t draw conclusions from them too strongly; if you do, you are laundering presumptions. That is, it is reasonable to make certain presumptions provided that you do not deny they are possibly false; making strong conclusions from weak premises violates this obligation. The necessity of making weak conclusions from reasonable presumptions follows from the inconclusiveness of the data that leads to the presumption itself. Hence, the conclusion itself must be weak, not strong.

If you at first make a reasonable presumption and later try to slide from reasonable presumptiveness into hard conclusiveness (hoping that no one notices?) it’s no longer reasonable. Then you are reasoning dogmatically, not to mention that changing the stringency of conclusions in midstride of an argument is a form of equivocation.

Which, of course, we can add to the list of logical violations already committed in the interests of skepticism and materialism.

But who’s counting?

Barbara: I agree theoretically, the standing of his arguments were lowered by Carter but questioning our ideas, thoughts, conclusions and interpretations is always needed, surely?

I also agree that Carter made an excellent reply to Keith's main points.

But as Bharat said, questioning and reflecting about these problems, or about Keith's position, is not a bad idea.

I haven't been impressed by any of Keith's philosophical arguments in defense of the production hypothesis; but some of his criticisms, like in the Pam Reynolds case, are interesting (even though not enterily convincing, in my opinion).

I think the point is letting Keith to express his best arguments in this blog, what will enable us to give them a proper critical evaluation (as it has been made in the Rovin thread)

Understading the best arguments for the positions we disagree with is not bad.

We're attempting to find the truth, and we have to be familiar with the best arguments and positions of our intellectual opponents.

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