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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/652

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

agreed upon quite unsuspected by the audience to be amused or deceived.

We have, therefore, an intelligible and admitted explanation which fully serves to cover all the facts in question. Such things are constantly done by collusion—it is a vera causa. It would be illogical to substitute for this a perfectly gratuitous hypothesis and an unknown agency. This is especially true in the case of such a set of phenomena as we are now considering. The possibility of though treading, as alleged by the writers of the paper, is so far beyond, or rather contrary to, universal experience that some use might fairly be made of the a priori argument, although the case need in no way rest on such a method. It may be said in passing that there is an enormous prima facie objection to the truth of the proposition that such divination is possible: the assumption and conviction of the contrary, based on immemorial experience, being, as it were, one of the suppressed major premises of all social intercourse.

On this argument, however, we would not depend unduly. The case against the genuineness of the asserted phenomena seems strong enough without it.

The children in question were not blindfolded.

In most of the experiments there is no mention made of silence being preserved. On the contrary, we may infer that no such rule was made; as the children must have been corrected when their guesses were wrong, as they often were.

On the hypothesis of collusion, it must further be noted that, in order to minimize the difficulty of the code of signals, and simplify the performance as much as possible, the child was previously informed of the nature of the object selected—e. g., whether it was a card or a name. The first guess, then, would give an opportunity for the conveyance of perhaps even the final hint contained in the correction offered.

The mistake made by the servant in guessing the name "'Enry" for "Emily" is obviously significant, and an excellent example of an "undesigned coincidence." Surely it must lead almost every plain mind to the irresistible conclusion that a mistaken whisper or facial gesture played some part in the phenomenon. This remark applies as well to the errors made by the children in the case of words alike in sound.

The theory of collusion is, moreover, strongly countenanced by the fact of the mediums being children, who are always ready to join in any game of deception; and by the association with them of the servant-girl—a valuable fact, putting out of court the assumption of any inherited special quality peculiar to the family, as an explanation, possibly plausible to some minds, of the alleged marvels.

It will probably, however, be readily allowed, with the authors of the article, that the experiments made in the presence of the members