A comment on Byrne and Normand – The Demon-Haunted Sentence: A Skeptical Analysis of Reverse Speech

The authors make claims that can lead readers to believe that David Oates is a shyster, fraudently profiteering from his claims. For example:

  • ‘His company … is dedicated to profiting from his discovery’.
  • A ‘reviewer’ of David Oates’ book, Susan Brombacher, concluded ‘that (Oates) seems more interested in making a profit than educating others.
  • ‘The Reverse Speech Web page contains a plethora of merchandise and services available to consumers at considerable prices’.
  • ‘ ….. those who pay (David Oates) a hefty sum and go through his training can then serve as expert witnesses and command hefty sums themselves’.

It is my suggestion that researchers like Byrne and Normand drop the fact that David Oates makes an income from Reverse Speech, and avoid the urge to use this as a method to discredit the man and the phenomenon, whether real or not.

The attention given to the fact that Reverse Speech is an income-producing enterprise takes away from the necessary argument concerning its genuineness, and this can appear as small-mindedness, and smack of academic ‘poor form’.  The authors would do well in ascertaining whether real speech exists, and what it is that is producing it.

Therefore, I suggest that anyone who seeks to produce a critique of the existence of Reverse Speech, do so by first identifying whether there are grammatically-acceptable, linguistically-viable utterances in reverse that are significant in number and length. I have yet to see a critical study that addresses this basic first point of consideration. From a recognition of the large number of utterances in reverse which are interesting linguistically, one then needs to determine whether they are simply coincidental sounds and have nothing to do with an intelligent awareness. An honest appraisal of the voluminous material available that is linguistically-viable, as well as grammatically and syntactically appropriate, should then lead to the question of whether an act of intelligence/awareness can or does produce it. We are unable to demonstrate this scientifically at this time. Nevertheless, psychology has increasingly become more comfortable with the existence of the unconscious and the subpersonalities that act upon the person. Of course, it is quite a jump to a consideration of the unconscious aspects of a person communicating via the reversed sounds of the speaker. Perhaps in time, further understanding of the mysteries of the brain and the unconscious will lead toward a wider consideration of the phenomenon.

Byrne and Normand, (2000). The Demon-Haunted Sentence: A Skeptical Analysis of Reverse Speech. Skeptical Inquirer Volume (24)2. Retrieved from http://www.csicop.org/si/show/demon-haunted_sentence_a_skeptical_analysis_of_reverse_speech1

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