Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/194

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front rank of qualifications, the confounding of general intelligence with special intelligence, the inference that the senses are infallible, and the utter non-recognition of the limitations of the brain and its liability to disturbance in the presence of circumstances that excite the emotions.

Reid, after citing the custom of courts in assuming that the eyes and ears are to be trusted, inquires:

"Can any stronger proof be given that it is the universal judgment of mankind that the evidence of sense is a kind of evidence which we may securely rest upon in the most momentous concerns of mankind—that it is a kind of evidence against which we ought not to admit any reasoning, and therefore that to reason either for or against it is an insult to common-sense?"

More recently still, indeed most recently of all, the anonymous author of "Supernatural Religion," in speaking of the testimony of Paul relating to the resurrection, says that it is not of such a character as would be received in a court of justice, thereby implying that the evidence of courts is evidence of the highest kind, whereas from the scientific point of view it is oftentimes the worst kind of evidence—although practically it may be the best that is possible in the administration of law: the form of swearing, though it may make the dishonest transiently honest, and force truth from unwilling lips, can never compensate for the limitations of the human brain, or correct the errors that enter through the senses, or make an expert out of a non-expert.

Laplace enunciates the formula that the more improbable a statement in which witnesses agree, the greater the probability of its truth—a statement which, in view of our present knowledge of the brain, seems almost satirical; but Abercombie, although a physician, gives full assent to the proposition in these words, which could not have been written by any one who had even a general conception of the philosophy of trance:

"Thus we may have two men whom we know to be so addicted to lying that we would not attach the smallest credit to their single testimony on any subject. If we find these concurring in a statement respecting an event which was highly probable, or very likely to have occurred at the time which they mention, we may still have a suspicion that they are lying, and that they may have happened to concur in the same lie, even although there should be no suspicion of connivance. But, if the statement was in the highest degree improbable, such as that of a man rising from the dead, we may feel it to be impossible that they could accidentally have agreed in such a statement; and, if we are satisfied that there could be no connivance, we may receive a conviction from its very improbability that it may be true."

Again, Abercrombie remarks:

"Whatever probability there is that the eyes of one man may be deceived in any one instance, the probability is as nothing that both his sight and touch should be deceived at once; or that the senses of ten men should be deceived in the same manner, at the same time; . . . if we find numerous witnesses