Who knows?

To illustrate the concept I outlined in my previous post, I found this beautiful text written by philosopher-logician Raymond Smullyan, who, if not a skeptic, can hardly be called a spiritualist (Italics are mine). R. Smullyan (2003). Who Knows?, pp. 26-27.

 “The fact that there is no reliable evidence that the living have ever communicated with departed spirits constitutes strong probabilistic evidence that the living have never yet established such communication and, most likely, never will. But is it scientifically legitimate to conclude that there are no departed souls?

The point is that there is such a thing as well-designed and poorly designed experiments- in brief, good and bad experiments. Well, the experiments of mediums strike me as incredibly bad!

Why on earth should one expect that because a medium goes into a trance, a departed spirit should take over his or her body? For that matter, suppose I light a fire in my fireplace, hoping that in the middle of the night, after the fire goes out, a departed spiri twill write a message in the ashes. The next morning, there is no message. Suppose this experiment is repeated millions of times and always with negative results. What conclusion should be drawn? That there are probably no departed spirits? No. The right conclusion is that if there are any spirits, they don’t write messages in ashes.

My whole point, of course, is that spiritualism and survival are very different things, and that the negative results of spiritualistic investigation do confirm that spiritualism is probably false, but casts no light on the probability of survival.

I wish to urge that the belief in the after life is neither unscientific nor scientific, but completely tangential to science.


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