article was written in response to Montague Keen's
second criticism of Stephen Braude's paper Survival
FIRST, let me reaffirm that we agree on an important point about the cross-correspondences; namely, that some cases are very impressive. I never denied that. In fact, I agree that the Palm Sunday and Lethe cases pose a significant prima facie challenge to the super-psi hypothesis; probably as great a challenge as any single case can. I also believe that the Hope, Star, and Browning case (a much simpler example) is impressive as well. But in a way, all this is beside the point. As I try to show in
Immortal Remains, what makes mediumship most compelling as evidence is a feature probably no particular case can display. What matters most, I suspect, are aspects of the evidence that manifest only over the course of a medium's career. Moreover, it still seems clear (at least according to my own standards of evidentiality) that most of the good cross-correspondence cases; and certainly the corpus of material as a whole; are too byzantine and obscure to carry much weight. The case for survival, in my view, needs to stand more firmly, on more straightforward pieces of evidence.
I also continue to believe that Monty underestimates how powerful the evidence is for refined super-psi. It comes from all corners of the psi domain; for example, from the inadequacy of
retro-causal interpretations of both precognition and Schmidt-type experiments with pre-recorded targets, and from the evidence for physical mediumship. I suspect it also comes from the evidence for impressive synchronicities. This is a point I first explored long ago (see, e.g., Braude, 2002), and probably need to address again. But in a nutshell, since it's at least religiously anachronistic, and probably incoherent, to suppose that Nature herself organizes synchronicities for us, the most plausible alternative is to conclude that we psychically arrange them for ourselves. And in many cases that requires a large-scale organizing of events that goes well beyond anything required to account for the cross-correspondences.
One final point. I can't accept Monty's claim that I downgrade the evidentiality of Stevenson's best reincarnation cases. In fact, I consider some of the reincarnation evidence to be as compelling as the mediumistic cases. What I have challenged is Stevenson's assessment of some cases, and (perhaps more important) his general strategies for defending them as evidence of survival. My fundamental complaint about Stevenson's work, and that of his colleagues and emulators, is that it's inexcusably psychologically superficial. Some cases do, indeed, look very good. And in fact many of the cases may be better than Stevenson reveals. But considering how few of the right questions he and others seem to ask; questions that would give us more of a handle on whether super-psi explanations are antecedently plausible; we have no way to know. And I think Monty perhaps overestimates the evidence for the persistence of personality traits, etc., although I agree that some of it needs to be taken very seriously.
At any rate, in Immortal Remains I make clear that I regard some mediumistic and reincarnation evidence as the best we have, and I invite those following this exchange to see what leads me to that judgment. I submit that the matter is much more complex than Monty allows, even though we may reach similar conclusions. I'll say, once again, that my concern has not been to defend the super-psi hypothesis and reject the survival hypothesis. Rather, I've wanted to make sure that certain alternatives to the survival hypothesis were not rejected too easily. Moreover, one reason the parapsychological evidence is so fascinating is that it suggests degrees of connectedness and influence that most people in most industrialized cultures find abhorrent. In fact, it suggests the basic correctness of a more 'primitive' and magical view of the world, according to which we have virtually unlimited access to and control over the inner and outer lives of others. Until we come to grips with that aspect of the evidence, the case for survival will remain in the conceptually rudimentary state in which we find it today.
Braude, S. E. (2002). ESP and Psychokinesis: A Philosophical Examination (Revised Edition). Parkland, FL: Brown Walker Press.