Dream Time Articles Index

Dream

Time

 

DO WE GO FOR "REASONABLE DOUBT" OR MOST LIKELY HYPOTHESIS ?

G. William Domhoff

The tone of Taylor's reply is much more reasonable than in his original piece, where he used the words "nave" and "dishonest" to describe those who allegedly overlooked the possibility that Senoi had forgotten or hidden their unique dream-sharing and dream-shaping practices. In now claiming that I don't even mention such possibilities, he is denying what I wrote in my reply, namely that I did consider such issues: readers can find my discussion of what I allegedly didn't mention on pages 31-33 of The Mystique of Dreams.

Taylor does not seem to understand that the only surviving writing from Pat Noone's work with Temiar, published in 1936, lends no support whatsoever to "Senoi dream theory" as we know it. What Noone does say concerning Temiar beliefs about the spirit world, as I show on pages 32 and 33 of my book, is remarkably similar to what Benjamin, Dentan, and Clay Robarchek found three and four decades later. This is strong evidence against Taylor's claims.

Taylor again mentions Noone's liner notes to a Folkway Records recording of Temiar music. Since none of Noone's notes and drafts ever were found by his family despite great efforts, these liner notes either came from his one published article or are fraudulent. Either way, they add nothing to the debate.

Taylor says he believes Stewart on Senoi dream beliefs because some of these ideas work for him, but the usefulness of the Stewart techniques tells us nothing about whether they were used by Senoi, as I repeat several times in my book- Taylor adds that he believes Castaneda for the same reason, but the evidence is that Don Juan does not exist and that Castaneda recycles material from writings on religion, spiritualism, mysticism, and anthropology.

Taylor says there is "justification for reasonable doubt" on the issue of whether Senoi ever practiced " Senoi dream theory". He thereby adopts the opposite approach to a scientific one, where the comparison of rival hypotheses for their ability to explain the most systematic and reliable evidence is the important issue, not whether there is some faint hope that the most unlikely hypothesis just possibly may be true. In my book I show that the overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the hypothesis that Senoi never practiced "Senoi dream theory." I further show, in support of this hypothesis, that Stewart cannot be considered a reliable reporter on Senoi culture. He had an M.A. in behavioristic psychology, not anthropology, when he accidentally met Noone while visiting in Malaysia and then tagged along with him on a 16-day census expedition in 1934, followed by seven weeks with Noone in a Senoi study in 1938. Much later he received his Ph.D. for a dissertation that makes unsupportable claims based on a very weak analysis of a very poor data base (the dream samples he used were collected in extremely different ways by different people in three small Asian societies that were in vastly different stages of acculturation to large civilizations, including the Western one in the Philippines).

Can what this man says in an article in 1952 that in many ways contradicts his own 1948 dissertation really be taken seriously when his claims are weighed against what has been written by every other observer, including Noone? If Stewart is to be given the benefit of an alleged "reasonable doubt," then any unlikely hypothesis can hang on forever in the dream community, deadening the impetus to entertain new hypotheses and collect new data. The whole enterprise becomes futile, frozen in rival cults, which in some ways describes the current situation. But at least the Senoi do exist.

 

 

 

 

  Copyright 2003 Association for the Study of Dreams. All Rights Reserved