Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(123) The rules for assessing the (spiritual) significance of coincidences, and when to break them

On the evening of August 2nd 1996 I was rereading the seventh chapter of Roderick Main’s thesis to note any points that I might wish to bring up with him.

By 8:35 I had reached page 341.
The page begins with the sub-heading The Spiritual Status of Synchronicity .

It reads:

Plaskett himself considered that his synchronistic experiences provided some kind of proof of - or at least "reason to believe" in - the reality of the paranormal; even more specifically, that they ‘proved the reality of the spiritual dimension of the universe.
While I do not myself believe that synchronicities… prove anything… about the ultimate nature of reality, I agree that they can indeed provide a body of suggestive evidence. There are certain strategies which can be adopted to try and undercut any… claims for the evidential value of experiences such as Plaskett’s. Individually each of the coincidences could undoubtedly be accounted for in terms of one or several… reductive arguments...
More generally, the apparent high incidence of unlikely connections in Plaskett’s material may be due to the fact that, on the one hand, he is exposed to an exceedingly large quantity of very diverse information anyway [most of his experiences involve high information sources such as books, newspapers, the television, etc], while , on the other hand, the connections which he allows to count as significant are in many cases between fairly broad and sweeping themes rather than between specific details.

I had just turned over channels on the TV that I had on in the background.
The programme now showing was The Bill.
I was paying it little attention, until I heard a police officer interrogating a suspect ask whether a whole series of suspicious facts were nothing more than coincidence.

A series of threatening phone calls to the home of a fifteen year old girl who had disappeared, all of them traced to the area in which he lived, a similarity between his voice and that on the ansafone at her home, the fact that a van that police were anxious to trace in connection with her disappearance was similar to one seen near his home... in each of these instances the policeman asked if it was just a coincidence and the suspect responded that each and every one of these facts was, indeed, just coincidence.

But then his story began to break down.

He admitted having made the calls, but insisted that he was not involved in her abduction.
The increasingly anxious police (they believed her to have only a few hours before her air supply expired) tried bogus modes of interrogation.

The tape recorder that always monitors interviews was turned off, and the officer became threatening towards the suspect.
This sufficed to make him confess that he had indeed abducted her, and that he confidently expected her to die.

In fact the police were to get to her in time.

Quite soon after my attention was hooked by the repeated querying if each suspicious fact was a coincidence, and the repeated insistence that it was indeed no more than that, a police officer was supplied by a colleague with a piece of information relevant to their attempts to get the suspect to tell them where the missing girl was.

He was so cheered by this that he remarked "There is a God."

No comments: